World Bulletin / News Desk
About one in six sudden infant deaths may be linked to heavy alcohol use by their mothers during or soon after pregnancy, according to an Australian study.
Researchers writing in Pediatrics found that those deaths may result from babies being exposed to alcohol in the womb and from alcohol-using mothers creating hazardous environments for the babies after birth.
"The results of this study indicate that maternal alcohol-use disorder increases the risk of SIDS and (infant deaths) through direct effects on the fetus and indirectly through environmental risk factors," wrote researchers led by Colleen O'Leary from Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as the death of a child under one year old with no obvious cause. Approximately 4,500 infant deaths fall into this category every year in the United States, according to the CDC.
Previously, researchers have tied SIDS to parents' smoking and to unsafe environments, but few studies have looked at whether alcohol could be involved in some of the deaths.
The study team examined information on 77,895 women who gave birth between 1983 and 2005, comparing the number of SIDS and infant deaths that occurred in children of mothers with a diagnosed drinking problem, to cases among the children of mothers without a diagnosis.
Overall, 171 SIDS cases occurred during that time in children born to the 21,841 women who were diagnosed heavy drinkers. Among the children who were born to 56,054 mothers without a diagnosis, there were 132 SIDS cases.
The researchers found that children born to mothers who drank heavily during pregnancy had a seven-fold increase in the risk of SIDS, compared to children of mothers without a drinking problem.
Babies also had a nine-fold increased risk of SIDS when their mothers drank within the year after birth, compared to babies born to mothers who didn't drink.
"One of the morals of the story is that parents should be very careful about drinking alcohol, especially if you're a single parent because there is no other parent to back you up," said David Phillips, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied alcohol-related infant deaths but wasn't involved in the story.
O'Leary and her colleagues, who could not be reached for comment, also report that heavy drinking during pregnancy was tied to a doubled risk of infants dying from a cause unrelated to SIDS, compared to babies of mothers who were not heavy drinkers.
They added that previous research suggests babies exposed to alcohol in the womb may have abnormalities in the brainstem, which could lead to problems regulating basic body functions like breathing.
But Phillips pointed out that the study found a link between infant deaths and a mother's drinking as long as one year after giving birth. "So it can't just be a biological explanation of what's going on," he said.
The mothers may be creating unsafe environments for their children, Phillips said, while O'Leary's team wrote that it found a number of causes for the children's deaths, including problems related to alcohol exposure in the womb and factors such as smoke inhalation, dehydration, infections and neglect.
Wildlife conservationists have struggled to reverse a decline in numbers of several African species, undermined by ferocious poaching by gangs which mostly ship the ivory to Asia.
Jerald Dennis is feeling stigmatized by his neighbors and has been shunned by his friends
Peru's 2,679 glaciers, spread over 19 snow-capped mountain ranges, are the source of the vast majority of the country's drinking water.
Some 85 percent of people said they thought the disease spread through sneezing or coughing, despite the fact that the World Health Organization regards that type of transmission as unlikely
No approved specific drug or treatment available for battling fatal pandemic virus hitting many West African countries
The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.
The world's fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tonnes, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools
The Supreme Council of Health said the infected was a 71-year-old Qatari national who suffered diabetes mellitus, according to the official Qatari news agency
Several airlines have cut flights to the region and there are reports of countries not allowing air ambulances to make refueling stops
A top U.N. official said response to a $1 billion funding appeal had been slow and that a surge in trained healthcare personnel was needed to tackle the crisis
The findings show the pressing need to detect lung cancer before it has shape-shifted into multiple malignant clones.
Second most severe warning issued for extremely heavy smog, air pollution enveloping capital Beijing, Hebei province.
One Ugandan has already died of the virus, which last appeared in the country two years ago killing six people
With already $1 billion invested in alternative sources of production, Sweden plans to produce more using renewable sources.
Each lab would be staffed by a team of three to four experts trained to operate in the worst chemical, biological and nuclear environments
Spanish health officials said four people had been hospitalised to try and stem any further spread of Ebola there after the nurse became the first person in the world known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa.