Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Mains level : Not Much

A team of scientists from Australia have found that babies at risk of the mysterious Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, generally have low levels of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) in their blood.

What is SIDS?

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise healthy infant under the age of one, generally while they are sleeping.
  • Most SIDS-related deaths occur in infants between the age of 1-4 months.
  • According to the NHS website, parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born and ensuring that the baby is placed on their back when they sleep.
  • Some health experts have said that it is associated with issues in the part of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and waking up.

Prevalence of SIDS

  • SIDS, also known as ‘cot death’, has claimed the lives of thousands of children across the West.
  • US estimates that about 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
  • Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reports about 200 such deaths annually.

What does the new study say?

  • The study assessed whether there was something inherently different in babies that succumbed to SIDS.
  • The researchers compared dried blood samples from 655 healthy babies, 26 babies who died due to SIDS and 41 babies who died of other causes.
  • The team found that around nine of ten babies who died from SIDS had lower levels of BChE enzymes than the babies in the other two groups.

What is the BChE (Butyrylcholinesterase) enzyme responsible for?

  • These enzymes are responsible for sending out signals that make a baby wake up, turn her head, or gasp for breath.
  • It is part of the autonomic system, and controls function like blood pressure and breathing.


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