Cot death: hope for blood test to identify babies at risk

Scientists hope to develop a test to measure a baby’s serotonin levels

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Researchers from Harvard Medical School are hoping a test that can measure serotonin levels – a hormone that controls sleep and breathing patterns – could be created to help pinpoint babies that are at greater risk of cot death.

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The researchers found babies who die of cot death, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), had serotonin levels that were 26% lower than babies who had passed away from other causes. Babies with low levels may not wake or change position when their breathing is affected and they’re not getting enough oxygen, researchers have said.

However, the study also found that in 88% of cases, two or more risk factors for cot death were present, such as sleeping position and exposure to cigarette smoke.

The test would mean greater efforts could be made to protect babies at risk of cot death. Currently, a test to measure serotonin levels can only be done after a baby has died.

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Check out our steps to ensure your baby is sleeping in the safest possible way and visit the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) site to find out what you can do to reduce the risk of cot death.

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