Pathogens May Play Role in Sudden Infant Deaths

September 15, 2008

Pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus found in normally sterile sites in cases of sudden infant death syndrome may be a contributor that should be considered in determining the cause of death, according to research published online Sept. 15 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

MONDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus found in normally sterile sites in cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be a contributor that should be considered in determining the cause of death, according to research published online Sept. 15 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Paul Goldwater, of the Women's and Children's Hospital in North Adelaide, South Australia, analyzed autopsy reports on 130 cases of SIDS, 32 cases of sudden unexpected death in infancy due to infection and 33 non-infectious sudden deaths. The latter included accidents and congenital heart disease.

Nearly 11 percent of infants in SIDS cases had S. aureus in a normally sterile site, such as heart blood, spleen or cerebrospinal fluid, compared to 18.75 percent of infection-related deaths, the investigators found. However, S. aureus was not found in cases of sudden accidental death, the researchers report.

"It has been hypothesized that pro-inflammatory cytokine responses to bacterial infection and/or toxins play a role in triggering a 'cytokine storm' resulting in SIDS. Support for this is found in the relationship between pro-inflammatory gene polymorphism frequencies (e.g., IL-6 and TNF-α) in SIDS compared with controls. Comparison of isolation rates of key bacteria (e.g., S. aureus) that could play a role in this support this idea. The presence of a genetic polymorphism denoting a low IL-10 production in combination with additional factors such as exposure to cigarette smoke would contribute to an increased possibility of the occurrence of a SIDS event," the authors write.

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