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Contribution of bacteriology and virology in sudden unexpected death in infancy
  1. L Prtak1,
  2. M Al-Adnani2,
  3. P Fenton1,
  4. G Kudesia1,
  5. M C Cohen2
  1. 1Microbiology and Virology Departments, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Histopathology Department, Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marta C Cohen, Histopathology Department, Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TH, UK; marta.cohen{at}


Objective To appraise the inter-agency protocol used in sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) cases in South Yorkshire, UK.

Design A retrospective audit of 121 postmortems carried out over a 3-year period was completed to assess adherence to local guidelines introduced in 2005 specifying the required microbiological specimen set to be collected at postmortem in cases of SUDI. Data on organisms isolated was also collated and assessed for significance.

Setting Sheffield Children's Hospital Histopathology Department is the South Yorkshire referral centre for SUDI. Post-mortem samples were processed by Sheffield Teaching Hospital's microbiology and virology departments.

Patients All postmortems of SUDI in children less than 2 years of age performed between January 2004 and December 2007.

Results 116/121 cases had samples sent for microbiological and/or virological investigation: 90% of cases had a blood culture and 68% had a cerebrospinal fluid sample taken.

Of the 116 cases, 49% had a potentially pathogenic organism isolated, 73% had post-mortem flora and 10% had no organisms isolated (32% had both post-mortem flora and a potential pathogen). 27% of cases were found to have middle ear exudate requiring sampling, from 48% of which a potentially pathogenic organism was isolated.

Conclusions Our finding of a potential pathogen in 57/116 (49%) of our cases, although not necessarily the cause of death, confirms the relevance of performing multisite and virology investigations in all cases of SUDI. Standardised protocols with agreed definitions are necessary for a consistent approach.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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