Sudden infant death syndrome has recently been linked to a genetic mutation which disrupts the normal function of respiratory muscles.
In a new study, researchers examined the genomes of 278 babies who died from the strange phenomenon and then compared them to samples obtained from 729 adults in the United Kingdom who've never been diagnosed of any cardiovascular, respiratory, or neurological disease.
Discovering SCN4A In Children Who Died Of SIDS
Out of the 278 samples from SIDS victims, the team discovered four genomes containing a rare mutation known as SCN4A. They tried searching for it among the controls but failed to identify even just a single case.
This is no coincidence, according to Stephen Cannon, a neurologist, and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles's David Geffen School of Medicine who was not part of the study. He explained that though four may seem too small a number, this is only normal in rare medical disorders.
In particular, the SCN4A gene controls a sodium channel that maintains the flow of electric current to stimulate the function of the skeletal muscles, such as those used for breathing.
Nonetheless, it's important to note that only 1.4 percent of the American babies had the mutation. The rest of them died due to various factors which are, fortunately, preventable.
How To Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Ensuring the safety of a child's sleep environment significantly reduces the risk of SIDS and other causes of sleep-related infant death.
The National Institutes of Health recommends using a firm mattress that's covered only by a fitted sheet. Pillows, blankets, crib bumpers, stuffed toys, and similar materials must never be kept inside the crib.
Parents are advised to always place babies on their backs to sleep, not only at night but also during naps throughout the day. Co-sleeping in an adult bed or a couch is also highly discouraged.
Although some medication claims to help in preventing SIDS, the NIH warns against their usage. Instead, the federal health agency promotes breastfeeding which has been found to reduce a baby's risk of crib death by up to 50 percent.
Cardiology Testing For Prevention Of SIDS
In a similar study, researchers in Denmark studied almost 2.5 million infants in a period of 38 years to search for new information on SIDS.
Based on the shocking results of their investigation, the other team urges parents to have younger siblings of SIDS victims undergo cardiology tests as their chance of dying a crib death is actually four times greater than their deceased sibling.
"All parents should follow public health advice on how to prevent SIDS," says Charlotte Glinge, a physician at University Hospital's Heart Centre in Copenhagen and author of the study.
She added that by screening the immediate relatives of SIDS victims, doctors will be able to prevent the potential death of a younger sibling.