Low serotonin levels up risk of SIDS

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 13:50:17 GMT

Low levels of a brain chemical required to regulate sleep, breathing and heart rate is linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a new study finds.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, low brain levels of a neurochemical known as serotonin is linked to increased rate of SIDS, a condition responsible for the death of some 2,300 babies before their first birth anniversary.

Low levels of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase, needed for the production of serotonin, were also found in the brain tissue of infants who died of SIDS.

Abnormal serotonin levels are believed to alter breathing, particularly in conditions such as when an infant is sleeping face down and therefore breathing in too much exhaled carbon dioxide.

“We have known for many years that placing infants to sleep on their backs is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of SIDS,” said Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Scientists hope their findings will lead to the development of new ways to identify at risk infants as well as strategies for reducing the risk of SIDS.