The role of infectious agents in sudden infant death syndrome

FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1994 Aug;9(2):91-100. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.1994.tb00479.x.


Epidemiological factors associated with susceptibility to respiratory infections are similar to those associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Here we review the evidence that respiratory pathogens might be involved in some cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the context of factors identified in epidemiological studies of cot deaths: the age range affected; mother' smoking; respiratory viral infections; immunisation status. Both laboratory and epidemiological evidence suggests that vulnerability of infants to infectious agents depends on interactions between genetic, developmental and environmental factors that contribute to colonisation by microorganisms, the inflammatory and specific immune responses and the infants' physiological responses to inflammatory mediators. A model is proposed to explain how microorganisms might trigger a series of events resulting in some of these unexpected deaths and discusses how the the present recommendations regarding child care practices might help reduce the numbers of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases associated with infectious agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / complications*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / prevention & control
  • Virus Diseases / complications*


  • Bacterial Toxins