Global Research Priorities Identified for Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

July 27 2017
Fern Hauck, MD, of the UVA Health System, researches Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

The scientific journal Pediatrics today published a paper from the School of Medicine, the American SIDS Institute and partner international organizations which sets out new global priorities for tackling Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID).

The paper, titled “Research Priorities in Sudden Unexpected Infant Death: An International Consensus,” highlights the Global Action and Prioritization of Sudden infant death (GAPS) project, run in collaboration with the Lullaby Trust in the U.K., Red Nose (formerly SIDS and Kids) in Australia and the International Society for the Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death (ISPID).

The project is the first to bring together both professionals and bereaved family members from 25 countries to achieve consensus on the top 10 SUID research priorities. These priorities aim to focus the efforts of the SUID research community and ultimately put an end to sudden unexpected deaths worldwide, by identifying the causes, which still elude researchers.

About Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

In the U.S. alone, almost 4,000 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly each year at a rate of 0.93 deaths per 1,000 live births. Since the launch of the groundbreaking “Back to Sleep” campaign in the 1990s, the number of sudden infant deaths has fallen by more than 50 percent.

Dr. Fern Hauck, professor of family medicine and SIDS researcher at UVA and a member of the American SIDS Institute’s Research Advisory Council, said, “Sudden infant death is a global problem and needs a concentrated effort by international researchers. We have to have a clear focus and target our research funds where they can have the biggest impact.” Hauck is lead author of the paper.

Dr. Betty McEntire, chief executive of the American SIDS Institute and co-author of the paper, added: “Imagine the horror of finding your sleeping baby is actually dead. There is no greater tragedy a family can face. While sudden unexpected deaths in infancy are less common than they were 30 years ago, we must not be complacent. The GAPS research priorities now provide a road map for researchers around the world to make significant gains in tackling SUID. We are proud of our achievements in identifying these 10 global research priorities. As a world leader in tackling sudden unexpected infant deaths, the American SIDS Institute is committed to finding the underlying cause and eliminating these tragic deaths.”

Preventing SIDS

In response to the GAPS findings, the American SIDS Institute has developed a new aggressive research agenda and is urging researchers to drive the priorities forward. Dr. McEntire stated, “We are calling on donors and research funders to help us beat sudden infant death once and for all.”

The 10 international research priorities for tackling SUID:

  1. Studying mechanisms leading to death and how they interact with environmental risk factors.
  2. Enabling best practice processes and systematic data collection for accurate classification of SUID de­aths to inform research and prevention.
  3. Developing and evaluating new ways to make safe sleep campaigns more effective.
  4. Understanding to what extent social and cultural factors affect parental choice in sleep practices and responses to risk reduction campaigns.
  5. Identifying specific biomarkers to assist pathologists in determining the cause of death.
  6. Understanding the role of genetic factors in SUID risk.
  7. Understanding what mechanisms underlie SUID risk at different ages.
  8. Conducting further research on the role of abnormal or immature brain anatomy and physiology.
  9. Better understanding the practice of sharing any sleep surface with an infant, notably how it interacts with other factors to make it more or less risky.
  10. Identifying what factors are associated with SUID where all aspects of recommended risk reduction have been followed.

MORE: How Texting Can Protect Babies From Sudden Infant Death


Joshua Barney
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