No, he did not find the “cause of SIDS” in the study. Experts explain.

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The news quickly spread on the Internet: “THEY FOUND THE CAUSE OF SIDS,” read a tweet from a sample of countless holiday messages from parents excited about a new study from Australia. Several news sites have confirmed that research has found the “causes” of infant sudden death syndrome: a biochemical marker that can help identify infants at risk of death.

And why don’t people celebrate? SIDS kills more than 1,000 babies in the United States each year. That number is much lower than before – after a public health campaign in the 1990s that encouraged parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, the number of deaths from SIDS has halved, but every infant’s death is devastating and dangerous. A sleeping child hurts many new parents who never wake up.

However, researchers who have dedicated their careers to the study of SIDS say that the results of the study are likely to be exposed by those who are waiting for the good news of infant mortality.

“It’s really predictable,” said Richard Goldstein, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of Robert’s Sudden Mortality Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “I know some of these researchers. I think it’s a good study, but it’s a preliminary study. “

The study, published in the journal EBioMedicine on May 6, was very simple. Carmel Harrington, a sleep medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital in Westmed, Australia, tested the blood for the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase. He and two authors thought the enzyme could play a role in SIDS. Of course, in dry blood stains obtained in the first day or two of life, they found that enzyme levels were only 73 percent higher on average in 67 infants who later died of AIDS than in children who died of AIDS. other reasons.

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The discovery is important because the enzyme plays an important role in regulating the autonomic nervous system, which controls respiration, heart rate and other basic bodily functions. It is believed that babies who die of AIDS lose their autonomic nervous systems: when their blood oxygen levels drop during sleep, they stop breathing, cry, move their backs, or otherwise provide enough air.

However, the study was small and the first time such an observation was made for low levels of butyrylcholinesterase in SIDS. Doctors, therefore, say they should be transferred to a larger group before they are taken seriously.

In addition, the researchers said that while low levels of the enzyme in SIDS infants were statistically significant in some respects, they were not significant in other, more common statistical tests, so the association may be due to chance.

“I wish it were true,” said Jose Javier Otero, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the Department of Neuropathology at Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he studies potential biomarkers for SIDS. “It wants to have it all: it’s a simple thing, you can test it with blood. That’s why it’s exciting. But whether this is true or not is in the air.

Another problem with the study, according to two doctors, is that it does not include information on infant birth weight, maternal age, blood pressure or alcohol, tobacco or drug use – the main risk factors for SIDS.

“One of the biggest predictors of the risk of SIDS is the birth weight of the baby,” Otero said. “Could the level of this enzyme indicate that the baby was born with a very low birth weight?”

Given the preliminary results of an Australian study, how did it create such excitement in the community? This may be due to news published on the Internet on May 7 by the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, where the researchers are located. The headline of the release reads: “The world’s first breakthrough will prevent SIDS.” In his first sentence, SIDS said that “thanks to the world’s first discovery, it may be a thing of the past.”

In a letter to The Post, a spokesman for the hospital network explained his news: “We consider the results of this study to be a breakthrough in the study because these researchers first found a marker for SIDS while the baby was alive. Other biomarkers were studied, but only on post-mortem samples. The fact that this marker will be found before death opens up great opportunities for future research. ”

A pediatrician who has published more than two dozen scientific articles on SIDS said he agrees that it is “fun” to find a potential marker of future SIDS risk while the child is still alive.

“Other studies have found factors after a child dies,” Debra E. said. Wies-Meyer is a professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and director of the Autonomous Medical Center in Pediatrics. “Is this a perfect study? At. But if you’re careful not to over-interpret the results, it will add a whole new dimension to the SIDS puzzle.”

He and Goldstein expressed concern that the excessive press surrounding the new newspaper could lose some of the risk factors for AIDS that have been controlled by some parents: infants are less likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke and become ill with them. Sleep on your back, with a firm bed, with a soft bumper or pillow.

“I’m concerned that parents may misunderstand that risk factors are no longer relevant or unimportant, and that’s unfortunate,” Goldstein said.

All three doctors said it was surprising that the Australian study received so much attention when other recent studies on SIDS were ignored. In April, for example, a study described a “safe sleep calculator” that accurately identified 83 percent of infants with SIDS before they died. Another study, published last month and led by Goldstein, identified new genetic variants that play a role in SIDS.

“The risk paper and genetic research were very interesting,” Weas-Mayer said. “But we can’t control the press releases sent by doctors and hospitals.”

One of the concerns of doctors about the “march” claims in the SIDS study is that it could mislead people into believing that great progress is being made in this area, Goldstein said. In fact, he co-authored with the New England Journal of Medicine last week, the pace of research stopped decades ago after the role of bed and sleep positioning was determined.

However, Goldstein said he is pleased that attention has been paid to SIDS, even though coverage has sometimes gone beyond science.

“SIDS is a problem that deserves more attention than that,” he said. “This is the leading cause of infant mortality from one month to one year of age, and almost one in 1,000 newborns in the United States dies from it. This is not a solved problem. It always helps to raise awareness. ”

While not a groundbreaking contribution to the genre, Wies-Mayer said it inspired the study. The first author of the paper, he noted, began studying SIDS twenty years ago, after the death of his baby.

“It was a study done with the passion of a mother and a scientist,” Weas-Meyer said. “He funded the study through the Go-Fund-me campaign. This should inspire other scientists to know that they do not always wait for traditional sources of funding. If you are determined to do research, you will find a way. ”

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