Every year, 400 to 500 newborn babies die in the UK as a result of cot death syndrome. It affects babies who are between one month and one year old, and its causes are varied. Among them: secondhand smoke, a premature birth, the sleeping position, a room that is too warm, or not being breastfed.
To this day, its mechanism remains very mysterious to scientists. But thanks to new research, the mystery may well begin to fade. Doctors in France have developed a blood test that could detect newborns at risk of sudden death.
A link between syncope and cot death
To do so, they relied on a study published in mid-July by the Public Library of Science. The study found a link between vagal overactivity, abrupt cardiac retardation, and fainting spells.
'This study is the first to provide biological evidence, in adults and children with fainting spells, that vagal overactivity exists in some people and that treatments can be offered to them,' said Dr. Charlie De Melo.
The cause: the overproduction of muscarinic receptors, an enzyme that causes syncope. Thanks to this discovery, a simple blood test evaluating the levels of this enzyme could, therefore, detect the risks in newborns.
'The idea would be to detect these patients before they become seriously ill and to treat them during their first year of life, the period of maximum risk,' says Dr De Melo.