Doctors discover possible breakthrough in preventing SIDS

Posted at 10:48 AM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 10:48:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY – A new study could offer doctors hope in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in newborns. Babies who died from SIDS had low levels of a brain protein called "Orexin." Now, scientists want to develop screening at birth to reduce the risk of SIDS.

“He was my first son, my 3rd child,” said Angela Valerio.

Valerio’s son Dylan was just three months old when his father put him down for a nap and he never woke up.

An autopsy confirmed Dylan died of SIDS.

“It's anytime a baby dies under the age of one with a cause that we don't know,” said Michelle Bushnell, Primary Children’s Hospital Charge Nurse. “There's not really a sign that a baby would die from SIDS.”

Researchers in Australia believe they’ve uncovered a biological explanation for what is also known as “Cot Death.” They discovered babies who died from SIDS had 20% lower levels of Orexin than the others. Orexin is responsible for sleep regulation and causes a baby to roll over when they don’t have enough oxygen.

“There's no classification. This doesn't happen to certain races or financial situations or things like that. It can happen to anybody,” said Bushnell.

While it’s one of many factors, doctors say they could develop a screening test to predict if kids could be at risk.

“A lot of things ran through my mind because I was breastfeeding at the time. I thought it was something I put in my system,” said Valerio. “You just want all these answers.”

Valerio hopes this possible breakthrough can save lives so other families won’t feel her same loss.

“I'd do anything just to hug him and squeeze him. We miss him tons," Valerio said.

It could take 10 years for scientists to develop the screening test. In the meantime, they encourage parents to follow SIDS prevention guidelines, including keeping the baby in the same room as the parent or caregivers for the first six months of their life.