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Gene Variant Raises SIDS Risk for Black American Infants

Babies with two copies of the gene are 24 times more likely to die from SIDS, researchers say

THURSDAY, Feb. 2, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've spotted a common genetic variation that increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in black American babies.

The Y1103 variant of the SCN5A gene increases an infant's risk of developing an abnormal heartbeat during times of environmental stress, according to the researchers at the University of Chicago.

Children with two copies of Y1103 have a 24-fold increased risk of SIDS, but carrying just one copy of Y1103 does not appear to increase the risk, the researchers report in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"The common polymorphism alone does not cause SIDS. Our findings suggest, however, that it renders infants vulnerable to environmental challenges -- such as a long pause in respiration -- that are tolerated by children without the mutation," study director Dr. Steven Goldstein, professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago, explained in a prepared statement.

"The hope is that findings like this may one day allow us to intervene. We might screen to identify children at high risk and teach parents how to lessen the likelihood of secondary challenges. We have already begun to evaluate drugs that may mitigate the risk," Goldstein said.

For this study, he and his colleagues analyzed tissue samples from 133 black American babies who died of SIDS and compared those to samples collected from 1,056 black babies with no known health problems.

Black American infants have three times greater risk of SIDS than whites and six times greater risk than Hispanics or Asians.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about SIDS.

SOURCE: University of Chicago Medical Center, news release, Feb. 1, 2006
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