Serotonin is Suspected to be the Cause of Sudden Infant Death


Sudden Infant Death SyndromSudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has for many years been known as a mysterious and frightening killer of newborns.

Medical researchers are now finding gaps causes why a baby can die of SIDS. Doctors have found that infants who died from SIDS tend to have lower amount of  serotonin hormone compared to infants who died of other causes. Serotonin is a  hormonal neurotransmitter closely linked to many vital body functions, including sleep cycles.

“The lack of serotonin is suspected to inhibit the ability of sleeping infants to wake up when its security is threatened, lack of oxygen, or other hazards,” said Dr. Rachel Y. Moon, a pediatrician, SIDS researcher and head of the Association of Division of General Pediatrics and Public Health at the Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health at Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC, according to healthday.

SIDS is the leading cause of death of infants aged 1 month to 1 year. According to U.S. National Institutes of Health, the majority of SIDS deaths occur between ages 2 months and 4 months, and more than 2,200 babies in the United States die of SIDS each year. Sudden death can not be explained, even after the baby’s autopsy and their health reviewed. Since most of these deaths occur when babies are asleep.

Laura Reno, vice president of public affairs of First Candle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and prevention of SIDS states that researchers believe that some types of birth defects leading to a deficit of serotonin in some infants. Serotonin deficits are suspected of causing the baby to not have an ‘alarm’ when their bodes are on the verge of danger.

Dr. Hannah C. Kinney, a neuropathologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues found that serotonin levels of 35 infants who died of SIDS was 26 percent lower than the infants who died of known causes.

SIDS infants also have a 22 percent lower level of tryptophan hydroxylase, an enzyme that helps make serotonin. “In infants who lack serotonin, their ‘alarms’ do not work. Even if there is danger in their sleep environment. This is what causes them to die,” said Reno.