04 Apr Potential Genetic risk factor for SIDS
Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the leading cause of infant death in high-income countries. The phenomenon occurs while the infant is asleep, the cause of SIDS is not known. Certain factors appear to increase the risk of SIDS, including the body position during sleep. Education has helped parents understand the importance of having their babies sleep on their backs, and this has helped reduce SIDS deaths over the last two decades.
Mannikko et al. recently published an article in The Lancet. They found rare mutations associated with impairment of the breathing muscles were more common in babies who had died from SIDS than in healthy infants. They analyzed the genes of 278 children who had died from SIDS and compared them to genes of 729 adults (who had no history of cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological disease). The researchers looked specifically at mutations in the SCN4A gene, which are associated with impairment of the breathing muscles. They found mutations in four of the 278 children who had died of SIDS, compared to none of the healthy adults. These findings are only preliminary, and a lot more research is needed, but this forms part of the emerging evidence of genetic risk factors for infants having SIDS.