Bacterial infections such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus — sometimes acquired in medical facilities — may be responsible for many cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The finding is the result of new research published in a recent edition of the British medical journal The Lancet.
Scientists conducting this latest study discovered high levels of Staph and E. Coli bacteria in young children who had died of SIDS. The researchers focused on autopsy results obtained from 546 SIDS victims. The bacterial infections were found to be considerably more pronounced in those victims whose deaths could not be explained by non-infectious means.
Additionally, the number of SIDS cases begins to decline between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks — an age at which infants develop blood concentrations of immunoglobulin that are known to protect them from bacterial infections.
Although putting infants to rest on their backs and protecting them from secondhand smoke have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, the precise cause(s) of the syndrome have largely remained a mystery to scientists. Approximately 2,500 infants die of SIDS annually, though the rate has significantly declined since 1983.
Authors of the study note that the research findings are still preliminary, and their true significance is not yet well understood, so prophylactic measures such as antibiotic treatment of infants would not be advisable at this time. They also note that because a direct, causal link between the infections and SIDS has not been established, clinical implications can not be drawn from this research, alone.
Still, the findings reaffirm the critical importance of cleanliness and sanitation in medical settings, and the need to reduce patients’ exposure to infectious bacteria.
Previously on the DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
- How winter colds and over-wrapping contribute to SIDS
- The health effects of second-hand smoke on infants
- Why cleanliness is the best protection against hospital-acquired infections
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