Research Article

Respiratory viruses and sudden infant death.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 19 May 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:1491
  1. A L Williams,
  2. E C Uren,
  3. L Bretherton


    Viruses were shown to be present in the respiratory tract in 200 of 763 cases of the sudden infant death syndrome studied in the nine years 1974-82. Epidemiological and pathological evidence suggested that the distribution of viruses in the sudden infant death syndrome differs between infants aged 3 months or less and those aged over 3 months: the incidence of detection of virus was 14% in the younger group compared with 39% in the older group. The distribution of the viruses in these two groups was compared with that in 1341 live infants with respiratory virus infections. Adenovirus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, and rhinovirus had similar distribution among the victims of the sudden infant death syndrome and live controls. The incidence of detection of respiratory syncytial virus was increased in the older infants dying of the sudden infant death syndrome (90% of the cases detected) compared with the older group of live infants (53%). Antibody studies, detection of virus, and epidemiological data suggest that respiratory syncytial virus may be a precipitating factor of sudden death in older infants.