Previous studies of the abnormal physical properties of lung surfactant derived from infants experiencing prolonged expiratory apnoea, or who have died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), have led to a search for the agent responsible. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) has been performed upon 12 infants under 12 months at necropsy and the rinsings analysed for up to 26 bile acids using high performance liquid chromatography, which requires nanomolar quantities. They were also analysed for simultaneously retrieved phospholipid and proteolipid—a minor component of lung surfactant—as markers of lavage efficiency.
Total bile acid (TBA) was found to be higher in six SIDS cases, reaching a mean (SE) 8.54 (2.24) μmol/l in the BAL fluid compared with 4.66 (1.47) μmol/l in the six controls of similar age. When related to the concomitant surfactant yield, the TBA/proteolipid and TBA/phospholipid ratios both showed highly significant differences between index lungs and controls, providing another postmortem marker of SIDS with potential for development as a test of risk. Since the bile:phospholipid ratio determines whether phospholipase A2 synthesises or hydrolyses phospholipid, the raised TBA/phospholipid ratio could be highly significant, causing this enzyme to function more like its role in the gut than in the lung.
- prolonged expiratory apnoea
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