Background: Conventional approaches to virus detection failed to provide convincing evidence of a viral etiology in sudden unexplained deaths in infants (SUDI). Many viruses may not have been detected by the routinely used methods; among them enteroviruses (EV) have seldom been found in SUDI.
Methods: In this study EV were sought directly in stools, in pharyngeal and tracheal samples and in myocardial and lung tissues, by using a nested PCR; they were also sought indirectly by detecting IgM antibodies with a new capture immunoassay. Twenty-four SUDI cases were divided into two groups: Group I, certainly associated with; or Group II, not associated with clinical, biologic or histologic signs of viral infection.
Results: EV were found in stools but their prevalence was not significantly different between Group I and Group II (20 and 22.2%, respectively). On the contrary EV were detected in respiratory tract and/or lung samples in 53.8% of infants of Group I and in none of Group II. Anti-EV IgM antibodies were detected in 55.5% of infants of Group I and in none of Group II.
Conclusions: These results indicate that EV infection may be specifically associated with the subgroup of SUDI with viral signs, raising the question of its role in this condition.