No, scientists didn't discover the cause of SIDS. Here's what they did find. - Livescience.com
May 20, 2022 2 mins, 8 secs

Last week, a new study about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) went viral after news headlines and social media posts proclaimed that scientists had discovered the root cause of the condition.

However, the study in question, published May 6 in the journal eBioMedicine, did not uncover the root cause of SIDS and likely won't contribute to a risk assessment or a way to prevent the syndrome anytime soon, an expert told Live Science. .

Infants who die of SIDS had relatively low BCheE activity at birth, as compared with infants who died of other causes or those who survived into childhood, the study found.

However, "at this stage, our finding offers nothing new to clinical practice," she told Live Science in an email. .

The new study is an "interesting and solid contribution" to the scientific literature on SIDS, but for now, "the butyrylcholinesterase story is very preliminary and needs a lot more research before we understand its actual significance," Goldstein told Live Science in an email. .

But since then, the nation's rates of SUID have hovered around the same level — about 90 infants per 100,000 live births — and a large proportion of these deaths are attributed to SIDS.

Subsequent studies have pointed to genetic factors that might raise the risk of SIDS, as well as brain and nervous system differences that may make it difficult for infants to wake up if they stop breathing in their sleep, according to the NEJM report.

In their study, the researchers measured BCheE activity in dried blood samples that had been collected from 26 newborns that later died of SIDS.

On average, the infants who died of SIDS showed lower BCheE activity compared with both the healthy children and those who died of other causes.

This suggests that measuring BCheE at birth could help flag infants at risk of SIDS and someday find ways to prevent the syndrome, the authors wrote in their report.

However, "there is a lot of work to do before understanding how specifically it can identify risk," Goldstein told Live Science. .

Although the SIDS group showed lower BCheE activity than the other groups, overall, at an individual level, their measurements overlapped with those of infants in the healthy group

So in isolation, measuring BCheE wouldn't be a strong indicator of a newborn's future risk of SIDS, The Atlantic reported

Another limitation of the study is that the team analyzed BCheE activity near the time of birth but not at the time of death, so it's unclear whether the levels remained similarly low at the time the babies died, Harrington said

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