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Researchers Find Clue to SIDS Early Detection 197

SpaceAdmiral writes "The Globe and Mail is reporting that scientists have found babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) tend to have an abnormality in their brain stem. By linking SIDS to a biological cause, it may now be possible to test for the abnormality and treat babies at risk of SIDS."
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Researchers Find Clue to SIDS Early Detection

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  • Mrs. Otter gave birth to our first pup a little over a year ago, and I noticed even then that many of the strategies we were given to reduce the chances of SIDS (baby on their back, in their own bed, no blankets, no "crib-bumpers") really seemed to be about reducing the risk of suffocation.

    I'm no scientist, but hearing a theory that some babies might be a little worse of when required to react to lack of oxygen tracks pretty well with what the prevention techniques.

    Sounds promising - time for a bigger stu

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      I have to agree with you on that. People keep telling me that "The doctors can tell if a baby has suffocated.", but since something is going on that 'The doctors' can't figure out, it is naive to think that it couldn't be that perhaps an infant can suffocate without causing the kind physical trauma that would show in an older person.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
        There's a difference between telling that a baby suffocated (which you can do) and telling WHY it suffocated. If it's got bits of blanket lint in it's lungs that's a pretty good sign. SIDS is mysterious because its victims don't have any obvious causes. This theory explains why -- their brains just forget to tell them to breathe.
        • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
          That's just it. Perhaps in infants, it is not easy to tell that they suffocated. Perhaps it is only obvious sometimes. Given that SIDS and suffocation have the same list of risk behaviors, it is a reasonable hypothesis that SIDS is suffocation.
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
            SIDS is suffocation. When you stop breathing you suffocate. Do you mean, uh, suffocation with help?

            Suffocation itself isn't hard to detect. It CAN be hard to tell why it happened... did baby get wrapped up in his blanket? Did Mom flip out? Did he stop breathing because of a brain disorder?

            The second S in SIDS stands for syndrome... so technically any baby that dies suddenly for no apparent cause is a victim of SIDS. It is known though that some babies just seem to stop breathing. People have witnesse
            • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
              Ahh... Then we don't really disagree. Of course you and I are in the minority. SIDS is not generally accepted as suffocation. I happen to think that it is, and apparently you do too.
    • by jamesh ( 87723 )
      All 4 of our kids had a lot of trouble sleeping as babies due to colicy(sp?) pains. They always slept best lying on their tummies with their legs curled up under them.

      I guess my wife and I weighed up the risks associated with the babies sleeping on their tummies vs nobody (mum, dad, and kids) getting any sleep, and decided the former was the better option. (In fact, at 3am in the morning almost anything seems like a better option!)

      I'm not sure how it compares to SIDS, but driving a car when you haven't slep
  • Or... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tenareth ( 17013 )

    They will find out that there are a notable amount of SIDS deaths that are marked as SIDS because doctors didn't want to make the parents feel any worse for putting the kid in a water bed, or with inappropriate bedding... or not sleeping with their kid the first 3 months to help regulate their breathing, or being too far away to have heard the baby cough up some sour milk and drown themselves...

    SIDS is a horrible thing... but quite a few deaths that were actually the fault of the parent for not researching
    • As far as I know, all infant deaths get an autopsy by a forensic pathologist. At least for the ones at the place I work, the forensic pathologist do not make a diagnosis of SIDS even in the absence of evidence to the contrary. SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion, but enough people have been burned in making that diagnosis (whereupon later it was found out that the parents did indeed kill the child) that at least the pathologists don't make (or at least shouldn't) that diagnosis anymore.
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      The problem with the 'liable' part is that all of the risks are not known. All of your examples seem to alway be grouped together. There are also the risks of putting a tiny baby in a bed with them, the risks of breastfeeding, risks of staying too close to the baby, risks of not feeding formula. And what foods are good, and what foods are bad is far from a certainty.
    • by cluke ( 30394 )
      It's not as clear cut as you might imagine. Parents get bombarded with all sorts of information, not all of it pratical, and not all of it consistent. For example, you say "sleeping with their kid the first 3 months to help regulate their breathing", yet people like Gina Ford advocate putting your child in it's own room as soon as possible to sort out their sleep cycle. Current wisdom also says you shouldn't have a baby in bed with you (for fear of accidentally smothering them), you seem to be suggesting th
      • by Ironica ( 124657 )

        It's not as clear cut as you might imagine. Parents get bombarded with all sorts of information, not all of it pratical, and not all of it consistent.

        Which is why it's important to check your sources.

        For example, you say "sleeping with their kid the first 3 months to help regulate their breathing", yet people like Gina Ford advocate putting your child in it's own room as soon as possible to sort out their sleep cycle.

        I had to google Gina Ford to find out who she is. It appears she is a maternity nurse

        • by mibus ( 26291 )

          "Current wisdom?" Who is that?

          The American Academy of Pediatrics and researchers who study infant deaths say bed sharing leaves babies vulnerable to being crushed or suffocated and may increase their risk for sudden infant death syndrome, especially if the mother is a smoker. ...

          In advising against bed sharing, the policy statement pointed to numerous studies supporting its case, including one showing that nearly half of 119 infants who died suddenly and unexpectedly during a four-year period in the St. Lou

    • by mortonda ( 5175 )
      Insightful?!?! How about -5 Insensitive, -1 Clueless, -2 Moron

      but quite a few deaths that were actually the fault of the parent

      So far their is precious little evidence as to what causes sids. Since the research reports so little that we can actually say causes SIDS, how can you POSSIBLY say it's the parent's fault?

      Raising a baby is difficult and tiring. As a light sleeper, it become absolutely necessary to move our son out to his own room. Granted, we do have a baby monitor set up, and I placed

      • "Our son prefers to sleep on his stomach or side; I know that some research indicates a slight correlation of SIDS with sleeping on the stomach, but there is no evidence of causation. It's the only way he would sleep; what's a parent to do?"

        Well, from one parent to another, let me say this... it's not a "SLIGHT CORRELATION", it's a statistical fact [] that the rate of SIDS has dropped by 50% since the inception of the Back To Sleep campaign.

        You can spin it however you want, but an awful lot of babies were smot
  • but this is more like the beginning of the beginning of a "solution" to SIDS. If there are brain stem and chemical abnormailites that cause SIDS, perhaps eventually we could check for those things in new babies before sending them home. Since the abnormailities were found in autopsies though, I'm wondering how long it will be before these abnormailities can be detected through some non-invasive procedure. But once there's a way, we could figure out which babies were prone to this and provided targeted warni
    • by bytesex ( 112972 )
      I'm on my third child now - I know how you must feel. Let me tell you this: it's time to relax, man; being relaxed as a parent is everything with kids. Babies feel most comfortable (protected) lying on their stomachs (except for when they're really full sometimes), and besides, what happens if your baby, lying on its back, throws up in her sleep ? She might suffocate. What happens if your baby, lying on its side, rolls to her front ? Both her arms are on one side all of a sudden; she'll have no control
  • by AugstWest ( 79042 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @05:23PM (#16679875)
    While this will possibly one day be good news, the number of tests for pregnant mothers and babies is just astounding. It turns into a situation where pregnant women are told "you have a 1 in 4000 chance that your child has X," which creates a lot of worry and concern for what in 3,999 out of 4,000 cases is nothing.

    Frequently, these tests are for things that can't be cured, or that have experimental cures that are sanctioned by the American Societies of Obstetrics/Pediatricians, but the treatment success rate isn't known, nor are the potential harms of a lot of the "cures."

    I'm not belittling the science here, nor am I saying that this isn't a good thing, I'm just pointing out a human cost here -- the stress levels for tests and procedures during these stages of development are very high, and it is an extremely rare doctor who will/can admit that their procedures are experimental.

    If you're pregnant or have a small child, do some research on the tests you'll be given. You'll be amazed at what you discover.
    • Mos parents research will take them to the internet, where the sites that know jack, ignore science, base 'fact' on nothing, or coincidence at best far outweigh the site that actual provide factual information.
      I did an astounding amount of research after my first child was born. Someone without an knowledge of science can easily be lied to.
    • Great point parent.

      When I had my first son, the test results came back "Positive" for Downs Syndrome. When I asked; "what are the chances?" The answer was; 1 in 300. How could we verify this? Amniosentisis (sorry about spelling) -- which is to sample the amniotic fluid in the spine of the baby. The risks were 1 in 244 (about) for killing the fetus.

      We went with a detailed ultrasound, and the chances dropped to 1 in 150.

      With about 300 different diseases tested in babies, I could see that to guarantee NO disea
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by monkeydo ( 173558 )
        An amniocentesis samples the fluid around the baby, and the needle does not (is not supposed to) touch the baby, let alone go into his spine.

        If the risk went from 1 in 300 to 1 in 150, the risk went up, not down.
        • If the risk went from 1 in 300 to 1 in 150, the risk went up, not down.

          Of course-- your right. I meant to say it the other way. The ultrasound showing the baby's form being within norms reduced the chance of Downs Syndrome by half, from 1 in 150 to 1 in 300.

          My point is that the amniocentesis test has about a 1 in 250 chance of causing severe damage to the baby.

          So, we have tests that go to nervous mothers, and the results are less accurate than the chance of damage by further testing. Amniocentesis is the ma
    • That's why when I was pregnant last year I told my doctor not to tell me the details of my test results. I said I only wanted to know if it passed the threshold to be considered a risk for any condition. Otherwise, don't tell me the number, just tell me I was below the risk threshold and won't need additional tests.

      I knew that if I had exact numbers, I would worry unnecessarily and look up diseases online. It turned out that I had gestational diabetes, so the testing there was worthwhile, and I did get exa
    • by mutterc ( 828335 )

      This is a standard statistical thing, when testing for anything rare. Doctors ought to hand out pamphlets on this when discussing any of these kinds oftest results. Consider this contrived example:

      You have a condition whose incidence in the population in 1 in 1 million (i.e. if you pick a person at random, there's a 1 in 1 million chance they have this condition). You test for it with a test that's 99.9% accurate. This means that 1 out of every 1000 tests gives a wrong indication.

      Suppose you run this t

  • After scanning the posts on this topic, I crave a -1 Inhumanly Tasteless moderation option.
    • by IflyRC ( 956454 )
      Well, science is king here. I'm surprised I haven't seen a post stating that any fetus that tests positive should be used to harvest stem cells.
  • Treatment? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jvance ( 416133 )
    You mean, like not putting the baby in a cage in another room, where it can't queue its own breathing off of its mother's? They don't call it "crib death" for no reason.
    • by aug24 ( 38229 )
      You really think evolution has resulted in infants that need to 'queue' their own breathing from their mothers? (I'm ruling our that you think such a crap system would be intelligently designed.)


      I think mechanical asphyxia (face down death) or some kind of error in the nerve structures controlling breathing are far, far, far, far, far more likely.

  • Sometimes stories like this get me thinking in odd, heartless ways.

    If this condition has a genetic cause (not saying it does or doesn't, mind you) . . . then don't we make our species weaker by treating it and allowing those kids who would have died to grow up and reproduce?

    Sure, in this one case it might only be a few thousand kids a year, but add up all the diseases and conditions that have genetic links that we are treating successfully with modern medicine . . . while the short-term gain of having a lar
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fuzz6y ( 240555 )

      what is the long term implication for our species' ability to survive?

      Natural selection favors traits that allow a species to survive in its environment, not in some other environment, such as the one its forbears inhabited.

      So, for example, our forefathers were genetically predisposed to not be allergic to peanuts. That was simply not a trait a specimen could express and survive. Nowadays, with effective diagnosis and cortizone shots and "May contain nuts" labels all over the place, it's something you c

  • I'm going to bring up an unpleasant topic because I'm hoping someone here has real information and can talk about the history of SIDS.

    When I was growing up, the thinking about SIDS was that while the phenomenon existed, a good number of SIDS cases were actually murders of children by parents (if I recall, mothers were primarily blamed) using SIDS as the alibi.

    Was that crap? Do we know? What's the thinking now? (Not what causes it, but whether the number of cases of SIDS is actually the number of ACTUAL c
  • ...test for the abnormality and treat babies at risk of SIDS

    I think we know where this will probably lead.

    Anyone have the stomach to research the Down Syndrome test?
  • It's been awhile since I saw any shows that focused at all on SIDS, but I thought they already knew there was a problem with the brain stem? I mean, people don't just keel over for no reason, these babies are dying of what amounts to respiratory or cardiac shutdown, they just stop doing the things necessary for basic biological survival. These things are controlled by the brain stem. It should be no surprise that SIDS is linked to the brain stem.

    And how do they intend to 'treat' these babies? pacemaker
  • SIDS is virtually unheard of in countries where the parents sleep with their infants. I hope that the treatment consists of telling the parents to put the child in their bed as opposed to some kind of drug therapy...

  • The truth [] is that these kids are just too lazy and undisciplined to do what's best for them (that is, to continue breathing). That's what happens when you don't beat your kids [].

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.