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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    20th May, 2022


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.


  • Babies who died of SIDS showed lower levels of the BChE enzyme shortly after birth.
    • A low level of the BChE enzyme affects a sleeping infant’s ability to wake up or respond to their environment.
    • The enzyme is an important part of the autonomic nervous system of the body and controls unconscious and involuntary functions.
  • The previously conducted studies have found that low BChE activity is associated with severe systemic inflammation and considerably higher mortality after sepsis and cardiac events.
    • Prior to this research on SIDS, inflammation has been thought to be a factor in SIDS cases.
  • The mild inflammatory changes on the walls of air passages of the lungs were observed in SIDS infants as early as 1889.
  • Prematurely-delivered babies have been considered to be at a higher risk for SIDS, although a 1957 study that evaluated BChE in infancy found that there was no difference in the levels of the enzyme in premature and mature newborn infants.
  • Smoking during pregnancy is associated with a significant increase in SIDS events.

About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (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.

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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