Thursday, November 02, 2006

Abnormal Brainstems Not A Cause Of Cot Death

Newly published US research into brainstems of cot death (SIDS) babies has not found an abnormality in newborn babies which causes cot death, stated Dr Jim Sprott OBE today. Rather, it has found further proof that cot death is caused by toxic gaseous poisoning.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association(1) has found a brainstem abnormality in cot death babies. Researchers are claiming that some babies are born with this abnormality, which subsequently causes cot death by impairing the baby's brain reflexes for waking and breathing.

"The idea that cot death babies are born with abnormal brainstems can be refuted in a few sentences," said Dr Sprott. "It is already disproved by well-established cot death epidemiology."

Statistics show that the incidence of cot death rises with birth order: the rate rises sharply from first babies to second babies in families, and from second babies to third babies; and rises again for later babies. The cot death rate is highest among babies of solo parents.

"The rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next disproves the theory that cot death is caused by a brainstem abnormality in the newborn baby," stated Dr Sprott. "Quite obviously, whether or not babies are born with a brainstem abnormality is not linked to whether they are first, second or third babies in families, or whether they were born to solo parents."

The brain stem abnormality which has been found by the US researchers is an imbalance in the way the brain uses the neurotransmitter serotonin.

"Since cot death is caused by highly toxic nerve gases, this finding is entirely to be expected in cot death babies," stated Dr Sprott. "The US researchers have not found a cause of cot death - what they have found is a neurological outcome of the nerve gas poisoning which does cause cot death."

The researchers have proposed screening unborn babies for the "brainstem abnormality" in order to detect whether a baby will be at risk of cot death.

"This screening of babies would be a total waste of time and money," said Dr Sprott. "Since the brainstem abnormality is not a cause of cot death, but results from the gaseous poisoning which causes death, screening of unborn babies would prove absolutely nothing in respect of cot death risk."

Dr Sprott noted that the lead author of the research, Dr Hannah Kinney, made a parallel error in the 1990s relating to neurological cot death research. Having found decreased kainate receptor bindings in cot death babies,(2) Dr Kinney suggested that cot death was linked to babies inhaling carbon dioxide. "The idea that carbon dioxide causes cot death is disproved by cot death epidemiology," stated Dr Sprott. "However, because the particular gases which cause cot death attack neurological function, Dr Kinney's finding of decreased kainate receptor bindings in cot death babies was further proof of the toxic gas explanation for cot death."

The nerve gases which cause cot death are generated in mattresses (and other bedding), and the risk of exposure to those gases rises as mattresses are re-used from one baby to the next.(3) This explains the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next.

A mattress-wrapping protocol for cot death prevention has been publicized in New Zealand for eleven years. Since mattress-wrapping began, the nationwide cot death rate has reduced by 70% and the NZ European ethnic rate has reduced by about 85%.(4) There has been no reported cot death on a "wrapped mattress". By contrast, over that same period around 810 cot deaths have occurred in New Zealand on unwrapped mattresses (or parallel bedding situations).

Notes:

(1) Multiple Serotonergic Brainstem Abnormalities in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Journal of the American Medical Association 2006;296:2124-2132.

(2) Decreased Kainate Receptor Binding in the Arcuate Nucleus of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, 1997;56:1253-1261.

(3) Refer: Case-control study of sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland, 1992-5, British Medical Journal 1997;314:1516-20; Used infant mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland: case-control study, British Medical Journal 2002;325;1007-1009

(4) Source of statistics: New Zealand Ministry of Health

Media release issued by:
T J Sprott OBE MSc PhD FNZICConsulting chemist & forensic scientist10 Combes RoadRemueraAuckland 1050NEW ZEALANDPhone/fax: +64-9-5231150e-mail: sprott@iconz.co.nz