Red Nose is excited by the news that international research has linked cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) to a developmental abnormality in babies, and could explain why there is greater risk for babies sleeping on their front.
Research conducted by Dr Fiona Bright and Professor Roger Byard of the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, found an abnormality in a chemical called substance P could prevent a baby from responding to a situation where its breathing is compromised.
The researchers believe this abnormality, in the brain’s control of head and neck movement, breathing, heartbeat and the body’s responses to deprivation of oxygen supply, could be the reason why some babies sleeping on their front are more at risk of SIDS.
“If a child has this underlying vulnerability in its brain chemistry, and its breathing becomes compromised by sleeping on its front, that child is at greater risk of death because its body simply can’t respond in the normal way. The baby can’t lift its head, and its breathing and heartbeat will be compromised,” Professor Roger Byard said.
The study of 55 SIDS cases also found the abnormality in substance P is significantly influenced by prematurity and male sex, which may explain the increased risk of SIDS in premature and male infants.
“Ultimately, we hope that future research could lead to the development of screening techniques or biomarkers to identify infants who may be at risk of SIDS,” Dr Fiona Bright said.
This research was funded under a Fellowship established by River’s Gift.
Dr Fiona Bright was this year awarded the Kaarene Fitzgerald Post-Doctoral Fellowship by Red Nose to conduct research into SIDS.