April 7, 2016
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have reached an agreement with researchers in Cuba to develop strategies to prevent sudden unexpected death (SUD).
“Researchers and preventive cardiologists at the University of North Carolina and the University of Havana will be working together to understand the causes of sudden death,” said Ross J. Simpson, MD, principal investigator for the SUDDEN Project at UNC. “A better understanding of these causes will help us prevent many of these premature deaths in the U.S. and in Cuba."
"We look forward to working with the SUDDEN team from UNC to prevent sudden unexpected death in both countries," said Luis A. Ochoa Montes, DSc, principal investigator of the Cuban Sudden Death Study.
SUD is a malfunction of the heart that results in a rapid loss of blood flow through the body leading to death. It is a very rapid process and may have few or no known warning signs. SUD is a common cause of death in the United States, killing approximately 1,000 people each day, or one every two minutes.
The agreement resulted from a two-day scientific meeting held in February at the University of Havana's Center for Demographic Studies. Ross J. Simpson, MD and Irion W. Pursell, RN, leaders of the SUDDEN Project at UNC, met with researchers from GIMUS (Sudden Death Research Group of Cuba). Researchers from both groups presented data on the impact of sudden death in their respective communities and discussed prevention strategies.
"This historic collaboration between UNC and the University of Havana will help pave the way for new, effective strategies to prevent sudden unexpected death," Pursell said.
As a result of the agreement, the researchers will conduct a pilot project that will screen sudden death cases in Cuba using existing SUDDEN methodology. Research findings from the collaboration will be disseminated through international meetings, conferences, and manuscript publications.
Sudden death is a major public health problem in the United States and globally, accounting for an estimated 10 percent of deaths each year. There are many inconsistencies in the reporting and characterization of sudden death. The SUDDEN Project has taken an innovative approach to the problem, using new methods to capture every potential sudden death in the state of North Carolina. GIMUS' efforts have brought light to the critical need for a generally accepted clinical definition of sudden death and targeted heath policy for high-risk groups.
The SUDDEN Project at UNC is a retrospective epidemiologic study conducted in 18 counties throughout the United States. SUDDEN is designed to investigate the epidemiological, genetic, and pathophysiological causes of SUD. The study aims clarify risk factors, estimate incidence and underlying pathophysiology of SUD by sampling broadly in a diverse, socioeconomically and ethnically representative populations. To date, the SUDDEN study has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented findings in various meetings including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Heart Association, EuroPrevent, and Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).