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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Context:

A team of scientists from Australia have found that babies at risk of the mysterious Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, generally have low levels of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) in their blood.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance (Health and Education)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
  2. What is the BChE enzyme responsible for?

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome  refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise healthy infant under the age of one, generally while they are sleeping.
  • Most SIDS-related deaths occur in infants between the age of 1-4 months.
  • According to the NHS website, parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born and ensuring that the baby is placed on their back when they sleep.
  • SIDS, also known as ‘cot death’, has claimed the lives of thousands of children across the West.
  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
  • Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reports about 200 such deaths annually, according to NHS data.
  • The illness, however, is shrouded in mystery — experts have been unable to identify what causes the deadly disease.
  • While the Australian study could potentially pave the way for early intervention and diagnosis, health experts warn there is still a long way to go before the true cause of SIDS is identified.

What is the BChE enzyme responsible for?

  • These enzymes are responsible for sending out signals that make a baby wake up, turn her head, or gasp for breath.
  • It is part of the autonomic system, and controls functions like blood pressure and breathing.
  • The study refers to earlier research, which showed that animals in contact with second-hand smoke tend to exhibit lower BChE levels.
  • It notes that several other factors and changes in the first six month of an infant’s life can also contribute to low levels of these enzymes.

-Source: Indian Express

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