Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) May Be Bacterial Infection In Many Cases: New Study

Infections of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus may be an overlooked cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to research published in a recent edition of the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The research analyzes autopsy reports of 130 babies who died of SIDS.  Thirty-two of those babies died suddenly as a result of infection, and 33 had died of non-infectious causes.  A careful analysis was conducted of bacterial isolates that were found in areas such as the heart, blood, spleen, and cerebrospinal fluid — areas which are normally free of bacteria.  In those babies who died of non-infectious causes, bacteria was rarely detected, but dangerous bacteria was found in 20% of the babies who suffered sudden infection, and in 10% of those who suffered SIDS.

Often, in autopsies of SIDS babies, examiners attribute the presence of S. aureus to inadvertent contamination of a sterile site during the autopsy procedure.  The relatively high proportion of SIDS babies with S. aureus infection in this study, however, indicates that the infection may have been the cause of death of at least some instances.

Immune responses to bacterial infections or toxins have been shown to cause a "chemical storm" in infants — an event that may result in sudden death.

Authors of the study suggest that in those cases of SIDS where S. aureus is found in sterile sites,  the infants cause of death may need to be reconsidered.

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