Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, today published a paper from The American SIDS Institute and partner international organizations establishing new global priorities for tackling sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). The project brings together professionals and bereaved families from 25 countries to achieve consensus on the top 10 SUID research priorities in order to focus the efforts, identify the causes that still elude researchers, and ultimately eliminate sudden unexpected deaths worldwide.

The publication, titled Research Priorities in Sudden Unexpected Infant Death: An International Consensus, highlights the Global Action and Prioritization of Sudden infant death (GAPS) project, made possible by The American SIDS Institute’s collaboration with The Lullaby Trust in U.K., Red Nose (formerly SIDS and Kids) in Australia, and the International Society for the Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death (ISPID).

In the US alone, almost 4,000 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly each year at a rate of 0.93 deaths per 1,000 live births. Since the launch of the groundbreaking “Back to Sleep” campaign in the 1990s, the number of sudden infant deaths has fallen by over 50%.

Betty McEntire, PhD, CEO of the American SIDS Institute and co-author of the paper says in a release, “Imagine the horror of finding your sleeping and previously healthy baby has actually died. There is no greater tragedy a family can face. While sudden unexpected deaths in infancy are less common than they were 30 years ago, we must not be complacent. The GAPS research priorities now provide a road map for researchers around the world to make significant gains in tackling SUID. We are proud of our achievements in identifying these ten global research priorities. As a world leader in tackling sudden unexpected infant deaths, the American SIDS Institute is committed to finding the underlying causes and eliminating these tragic deaths.”

Fern Hauck, MD, lead author of the article, researcher at the University of Virginia, and a member of the American SIDS Institute’s Research Advisory Council, says, “Sudden infant death is a global problem and needs a concentrated effort by international researchers. We have to have a clear focus and target our research funds where they can have the biggest impact.”

In response to the GAPS findings, the American SIDS Institute has developed an aggressive new research agenda and is urging researchers to drive the priorities forward.

“We are calling on donors and research funders to help us beat sudden infant death once and for all,” says McEntire.

The 10 international research priorities for tackling SUID are to:

  1. Study mechanisms leading to death and how they interact with environmental risk factors.
  2. Enable best practice processes and systematic data collection for accurate classification of SUID deaths to inform research and prevention.
  3. Develop and evaluate new ways to make safe sleep campaigns more effective.
  4. Understand to what extent social and cultural factors affect parental choice in sleep practices and responses to risk reduction campaigns.
  5. Identify specific biomarkers to assist pathologists in determining the cause of death.
  6. Understand the role of genetic factors in SUID risk.
  7. Understand what mechanisms underlie SUID risk at different ages.
  8. Conduct further research on the role of abnormal or immature brain anatomy and physiology.
  9. Better understand the practice of sharing any sleep surface with an infant, notably how it interacts with other factors to make it more or less risky.
  10. Identify what factors are associated with SUID where all aspects of recommended risk reduction have been followed.