Investigating the microbiome of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy and childhood

Teddy’s Wish have contributed £11,000 towards an important new research project which investigates the role of infection and bacteria in sudden unexpected deaths in infancy and childhood (SUDI). The rest of the project has been funded by our charity partner, The Lullaby Trust.

Led by Professor Neil Sebire, Professor of Paediatric Pathology and Professor Nigel Klein, Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the project aims to investigate whether specific combinations of infection-causing bacteria are associated with SUDI, and whether the presence of these bacteria is related to known risk factors for SUDI, such as sleeping position or infant age.

The ‘microbiome’ is the collection of tiny organisms, including bacteria and viruses, which live on and in the human body. New techniques are now available to reliably identify the type and amount of different organisms present in the microbiome. These techniques have never before been applied to post mortem records of SUDI cases.

Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the leading centres for investigating SUDI and has an existing database with thousands of post mortem details. Using this database, the microbiome of anonymised samples will be analysed using modern techniques. These results will be compared with those of the standard post mortem. Microbiome analysis can allow tiny amounts of DNA only present in microorganisms to be detected and identified, and may inform our understanding of the relationship between infection, SUDI, and other known risk factors.