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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 00:58 GMT
Genetic research into cot death
Babies should be placed on their backs
Babies should be placed on their backs
Research which could help identify families with a genetic cot death risk is to be carried out by UK scientists.

The study comes as a MORI survey shows two thirds of people do not know the importance of placing a baby on its back to reduce the risk of cot death.

It is already known that many babies who die in cot deaths have a defect in an immune system gene which makes them less able to resist infections.

We are hoping that this ... will help our understanding of cot death and ultimately to prevent it happening

Joyce Epstein, FSID
The team at Manchester University now plan to look at other genes which could explain many cot deaths, in the three-year project.

Families who have had one baby die from the condition may, in future, be able to discover if subsequent children are at increased risk.

DNA tests could one day follow from the team's research.

The discovery of a genetic cause for cot death could also explain why some families suffer the tragedy more than once.


The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), which has granted the Manchester team 106,200, said such families would no longer need to suffer the anguish of suspicion of wrong-doing.

Resources could also be targeted at babies in families which have also been hit by cot death.

Joyce Epstein, director of FSID, said: "We are hoping that this research results in groundbreaking findings which will help our understanding of cot death and ultimately to prevent it happening.

"We won't have any answers for a few years yet. In the meantime parents and carers need to continue to follow the proven messages on reducing the risk for their baby - sleep them on their backs, don't smoke during pregnancy or after the birth and don't let them become too hot."

Dr David Drucker, a reader in microbiology at Manchester who is leading the research, said: "Parents whose babies sadly have died have come forward to ask me to use their tissue samples for my genetic research.


"They want something good to come out of a terrible tragic event.

"We are really excited at the prospect that, with their help, we might uncover the answer to cot death."

The MORI survey also found over 80% of people questioned did not know babies should be placed with their feet at the base of the cot.

And two thirds of the 2,100 surveyed did not know that one baby dies every day from cot death, making it the most common cause of death for infants under one in the UK.

Cot death is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby for no obvious reason. Post-mortems can explain some deaths, but in other cases they remain unexplained and are registered as sudden infant deaths.

Since the Reduce the Risk campaign was launched in 1991, the number of babies dying from cot death has fallen by around 70%.

See also:

14 Nov 01 | Health
Heart gene linked to cot death
16 Feb 01 | Health
Cot death gene claim
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