SIDS New Breakthrough More Than Science Hype

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SIDS
Courtesy of rohith polali (Flickr CC0)

SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) is a poorly understood condition that the new research feels like a big deal. But, this could be more than a science hype as there is nothing definitive about the research on why hundreds of babies die every year.

Then again, the interest in the study is understandable, but not warranted.

SIDS refers to an infant’s sudden and often unexplained death — one-year-old or younger. It is predominantly a mystery. Doctors have no answers, and parents are often the focus of suspicion, making them feel even more guilty. Medical research into SIDS has focused on how infants are placed down to sleep, so parents are encouraged to place babies on their backs and on firm surfaces.

But even with safe sleeping campaigns since the 1980s, casualty rates have been the same in the United States. Without good explanations for why the deaths occur, parents of young children are fearful it could happen to their child.

That’s likely why the new study hit such a chord on social media. Early coverage also overhyped its findings. That’s expected with scientific analyses, which are occasionally sensationalized by the press, giving people false hopes and undermining trust in science.

SIDS
Courtesy of Daniel Hatton (Flickr CC0)

The SIDS study, published in the EBioMedicine journal last week, incorporated blood samples from 67 infants who died and ten who survived. The research study showed that babies who died from SIDS had low butyrylcholinesterase enzyme implicated in neural function, not that this enzyme has a role in an infant’s death. It is also challenging to create a precise blood test if it is linked to SIDS.

Individual scientific studies seldom offer clear-cut answers, especially to complex issues like SIDS. Research on the more rudimentary, physical reasons for SIDS is vital to clear stigma from grieving parents and help propose possible resolutions. Any new findings in a promising approach are helpful. At the same time, it is also essential to be transparent about the research’s limitations. In this case, there’s still a long way to go before a screening test for SIDS will be available.

Bereaved parents want answers, and new parents wish it won’t happen to their baby.

Recently, a study published by researchers at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Australia could unravel the mystery surrounding SIDS as they have identified the cause. But, the story needs more analysis.

Researcher Dr. Richard Goldstein said they found that babies with lower BChE (Butyrylcholinesterase) levels are more likely to die from it. BChE is part of the brain’s arousal pathway, leading to arousal deficits in babies lacking the enzyme that reduces their ability to react to their environment.

THERE IS A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE BEFORE WE UNDERSTAND HOW BCHE CAN IDENTIFY RISK SPECIFICALLY. IT MAY UNNECESSARILY ALARM PARENTS THAT THEIR BABY WILL DIE, OR WORSE, IT MAY BE INACCURATE IN OUR WARNING.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson

Sources:
The Verge: SIDS study shows the risks of science hype; Nicole Wetsman
Verve Times: SIDS Study Shows The Risks Of Science Hype; by Monica Lozano
Chiang Rai Times: SIDS Study Shows The Risks Of Science Hype, But More Work To Come, Expert Says

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of rohith polali’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Daniel Hatton’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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