Bacterial Infections May Be Overlooked in SIDS Cases
Toxins could cause 'chemical storm' in infants resulting in death, research suggests
-- Robert Preidt
Toxins could cause 'chemical storm' in infants resulting in death, research suggests.
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Bacterial infections may be an overlooked cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), an Australian study suggests.
The research examined post-mortem reports on 130 babies who died of SIDS, 32 who died suddenly as a result of infection, and 33 who died of non-infectious causes.
This was followed by an analysis of bacterial isolates from normally sterile sites (such as heart blood, spleen, or cerebrospinal fluid) in all the babies. Infection at a sterile site was rare in the babies who died of non-infectious causes but was present in 20 percent of the babies with sudden infection and 10 percent of the SIDS babies.
The infections were caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a dangerous bacteria that can produce potentially deadly toxins.
In a living person, confirmation of sterile site infection is a marker of systemic infection. But this type of finding in an infant who's died of SIDS is attributed to contamination and often dismissed as a cause of death, the researcher said.
However, the relatively high proportion of SIDS babies in this study who had S. aureus in sterile sites suggests that a number of them died due to the infection, the researcher concluded.
The study was published online ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Previous research has suggested that immune responses to bacterial infections or toxins can cause a "chemical storm" in infants that result in sudden death. The study author said the cause of death may need to be reconsidered in cases of SIDS where S. aureus is found in sterile sites.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about SIDS.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Sept. 11, 2008
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Page last updated at 23:50 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 00:50 UK
Infections linked to cot deaths
baby in bed
Babies should sleep on their backs
Some cases of cot death may be due to a bacterial infection, researchers say.
The Archives of Disease in Childhood study found samples from babies who had died for no apparent reason often carried potentially-harmful bacteria.
Some experts believe toxins produced by these bacteria could trigger a chemical storm, which overwhelms the baby, resulting in sudden death.
There are around 250 sudden infant deaths a year in the UK. The majority are never fully explained.
REDUCE COT DEATH RISK
Place your baby on their back to sleep
Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold
Keep baby's head uncovered - place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot
Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, take drugs or if you are a smoker
If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in a room with you for the first six months
Scientists know that there are certain things that parents can do to cut the risk of cot death - such as not smoking during or after pregnancy, and putting babies to sleep on their backs, but the precise reasons why this helps are not completely understood.
Associate professor Paul Goldwater, from The Women's and Children's Hospital and the University of Adelaide in Australia, who carried out the latest research, believes bacterial infections may contribute to some sudden infant deaths.
He analysed the post mortem reports for 130 babies who had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), 32 who had died suddenly as a result of infection, and 33 who had died of non-infectious cause, such as a road traffic accident.
He then analysed the bacterial isolates from "sterile" sites which are normally free of infections, such as heart blood, spleen, or cerebrospinal fluid, in the SIDS babies, and compared these with those of the other 65 babies.
Infection at a sterile site was rare in those infants who had died of non-infectious causes, but this was relatively common in both the SIDS babies and the babies who had died suddenly as a result of infection.
Unsurprisingly, almost one in five of the babies who had died suddenly as a result of infection had a sterile site infection. But so too did one in 10 of the SIDS babies.
In many cases, the infection was caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a particularly virulent bacteria, known to produce potentially lethal toxins.
Dr Goldwater told Archives of Disease in Childhood: "The finding of S. aureus in a normally sterile site in a large proportion of cases of SIDS would indicate that a proportion of these babies died of staphylococcal disease."
He said, given his findings and similar findings by other researchers in the past, any cases of SIDS where S. aureus is isolated from sterile sites should be considered for reclassification.
Professor George Haycock, scientific advisor to the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, said: "The suggestion that infectious organisms such as S. aureus and E. coli play a part in a proportion of sudden infant deaths provides us with another important piece of the SIDS puzzle.
"It is important to recognise that both S. aureus and E coli are ubiquitous organisms carried by most, if not all, of the healthy adult population and that colonisation of infants does not imply lack of hygiene or normal care, but is bound to happen in a proportion of individuals.
"How deaths involving these organisms, by either of the mechanisms outlined above, can be prevented is not known at present since colonisation of some infants is inevitable."
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