Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of post-neonatal infant death in high-income countries. Central respiratory system dysfunction seems to contribute to these deaths.
Excitation that drives contraction of skeletal respiratory muscles is controlled by the sodium channel NaV1.4, which is encoded by the gene SCN4A. Variants in NaV1.4 that directly alter skeletal muscle excitability can cause myotonia, periodic paralysis, congenital myopathy, and myasthenic syndrome.
SCN4A variants have also been found in infants with life-threatening apnoea and laryngospasm. We therefore hypothesised that rare, functionally disruptive SCN4A variants might be over-represented in infants who died from SIDS.