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(LifeSiteNews) – A recently released study has confirmed the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a long-unexplained phenomenon that accounts for 37 percent of sudden, unexpected infant deaths a year in the U.S. 

Researchers from The Children’s Hospital Westmead in Sydney confirmed a theory, mentioned by Mayo Clinic, that such children have a brain defect that interferes their arousal system, preventing them from waking up as they stop breathing during sleep.

Dried blood samples taken from babies who died from SIDS, when compared with the blood of healthy babies, showed significantly lower levels of butyrylcholinesterase, an enzyme that “plays a major role in the brain’s arousal pathway,” according to BioSpace.

For years, parents have been told they can prevent SIDS by taking precautions such as keeping their babies on their backs, preventing them from overheating, and removing all blankets and toys from their cribs. But, as BioSpace has noted, “many children whose parents took every precaution still died from SIDS. These parents were left with immense guilt, wondering if they could have prevented their baby’s death.”

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“These families can now live with the knowledge that this was not their fault,” Dr. Carmel Harrington, the lead researcher of the study, and whose own son died suddenly as an infant 29 years ago, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The researchers have also noted that their discovery lays critical groundwork for identifying at-risk infants, as well as for pinpointing solutions to SIDS. BioSpace predicts that “in the next few years,” a screening test for SIDS will be developed.

Declining rates of SIDS in the U.S. have actually contributed most to a “steady decrease” in infant mortality rate, reported by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in 2017. During the decade prior, infant mortality dropped nationwide by 15 percent. 

Out of the top five leading causes of infant mortality, the proportion of deaths due to SIDS declined most, proportionally, falling by 29 percent since 2005.

Infant mortality has since further decreased in the U.S., according to the CDC, having dropped 2.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, to a record low of 541.9 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.