FACT CHECK: Have Researchers Found The Cause Of SIDS?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook over 22,000 times claims “They found the cause of SIDS!”

Verdict: Misleading

While a recent study established a link between having low levels of a certain enzyme and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), experts state the results of the study are preliminary and that the exact cause of SIDS remains unclear.

Fact Check:

SIDS is defined as the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby less than one-year-old, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are about 1,400 deaths in the U.S. every year attributed to SIDS, Parents.com reports. Now, a viral post shared on Facebook claims the cause of the syndrome has been discovered. “They found the cause of SIDS!” reads the May 13 Facebook post.

This claim is misleading and appears to misrepresent the findings of a recent study. (RELATED: No, Morel Mushrooms Are Not The Source Coronavirus)

A study published in The Lancet May 6, titled “Butyrylcholinesterase is a potential biomarker for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” explains researchers discovered the enzyme Butyrylcholinesterase appeared at lower levels in infants that died from SIDS than in those that did not. Dr. Carmel Harrington, the lead researcher of the study, told the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network this discovery could help make SIDS “a thing of the past.”

However, the study does not claim to have found the “cause” of SIDS. Rather, it claims to have found a biomarker that may increase the likelihood of the syndrome. Harrington told Live Science “It is unlikely that our finding would apply to all SIDS cases” and confirmed, “At this stage, our finding offers nothing new to clinical practice.”

Mary Beth Howard, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, concurred with this assessment. “This paper produces suggestive evidence that there may be some correlation between this enzyme and SIDS,” Howard told Very Well Health. “I don’t think we can say that it pinpoints the reason that infants die from SIDS in any way.”

“This study identified a marker of vulnerability, not a cause,” said Sarah Palmer, a spokesperson for the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, in an email to Check Your Fact. “Currently, despite intensive research, we do not know what causes SIDS.”

Palmer explained that while the study had not found the cause of SIDS, “it is nevertheless powerful because for the first time we have the possibility of identifying infants at risk of SIDS prior to death and the potential for future research into specific interventions.”

Check Your Fact has reached out to the American SIDS Institute for comment and will update this piece if a response is given.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter