ST. LOUIS — A landmark study has discovered the possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but doctors say more research is needed.

The Australian study determined that there are differences in a certain enzyme level between children who died of SIDS and those who did not.

The results of the study have been referred to as a game-changer when it comes to the cause of SIDS and its possible prevention. The study analyzed blood samples from babies who died of SIDS compared to those who did not. 

“They took that baby’s blood spot and analyzed it and compared it to ten other babies who are alive and well and who were born at essentially the same time,” said Dr. Marya Strand, the chief medical officer at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. “And (they) compared the enzyme level between those cases and the controls to see if there’s a difference.”

Dr. Strand warns that this is a very small, preliminary study. 

“Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) certainly may be an indicator of higher risk for SIDS but we have to remember, we are looking at 30 infants,” Dr. Strand said. “And the difference is not profound between the difference in those kids who died of SIDS and those who did not.”

This is a single study with lots of limitations to the data. One limitation being the blood samples used are over two years old. 

“It’s really from a scientific standpoint. It’s really exciting. But is it definitive? Absolutely not. Does it tell us exactly why some kids will expire from SIDS while other kids do not? It does not. So I just want to be very conscious of the limitations of a study of this size and of this nature,” said. Dr. Strand. 

Moving forward, Dr. Strand said we need many more studies — but this is a good starting point. 

“We need much larger sets of data. We need more contemporary data,” she said. 

Dr. Strand said these studies help us think differently about a disease process so that we can investigate in a more reliable or robust way. 

“I think that’s what’s exciting about this study. Not that it concluded something, but that it helps to kind of peel back another layer of the onion of SIDS to maybe get closer to the heart of what’s going on,” Dr. Strand said. 

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