Growth and survival of bacteria implicated in sudden infant death syndrome on cot mattress materials

J Appl Microbiol. 2005;99(3):573-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02620.x.


Aims: To compare growth and survival of selected bacteria implicated in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) on cot mattress polyurethane (PU) inner-foams and on different types of cot mattress cover materials.

Methods and results: Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes were inoculated onto swatches of new-unused cot mattress PU inner-foam and onto three types of cot mattress covers (polyvinyl chloride, cotton and polyester). The influence of inoculation cell density, relative humidity (RH) and temperature of incubation on survival was assessed by recovery of cells in 0.85% NaCl, with viable cell enumeration by plate counting on selective and differential media. Utilization of carbon and nitrogen sources within cot mattress PU was assessed by following growth on aqueous leachate from PU, and by colorimetric determination of aromatic amines. Good survival capability (>206 d) was shown by all three test species on PU inner-foam and on polyester mattress cover at high RH (75%), but only by Staph. aureus on PU at low RH (25%). Aqueous soluble material from PU foam supports bacterial growth; removal of aromatic amines from aqueous leachate from PU accompanies growth of Staph. aureus.

Conclusions: Staphylococcus aureus has good survival capability on cot mattress PU foam, even at low RH. Soluble material within PU can serve as carbon and nitrogen sources for bacterial growth.

Significance and impact of the study: Prolonged survival of Staph. aureus on PU at low RH could explain, in the context of the common bacterial toxins hypothesis, an increased risk of SIDS associated with used infant mattresses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Aromatic / analysis
  • Bedding and Linens / microbiology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Colorimetry / methods
  • Culture Media
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Infant
  • Microbial Viability*
  • Polyurethanes
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / growth & development
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Temperature


  • Amino Acids, Aromatic
  • Culture Media
  • Polyurethanes