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Bristol graduate named 'science pioneer'

11 September 2006

A Bristol graduate has been named one of the UK's pioneers of science in a new book for his research into cot deaths.

A Bristol graduate has been named one of the UK's pioneers of science in a new book for his research into cot deaths.

Work carried out by Peter Fleming (MB ChB 1972, PhD 1993), Professor of Infant Health, is recognised as having prevented at least 100,000 infant deaths worldwide.

The book, Eureka UK by Universities UK celebrates 50 years of life-changing research, developments and interventions by academics at universities throughout the UK. The book lists the top 100 world changing, and some of the most inspiring and dramatic breakthroughs in academic research.

Twenty years ago, 2,000 babies were dying suddenly and inexplicably each year while sleeping in their cots in the UK. Professor Fleming and his team carried out a survey in the former Avon area to try to discover if there were any discernible risk factors relating to cot death. After analysing the data, Professor Fleming pinpointed three potential factors: babies sleeping face down, being covered in too many blankets, and being exposed to parental tobacco smoke. The results were published in 1989.

Following  the successful trial in Avon, the national 'Back to Sleep' campaign was launched, backed by the TV presenter Anne Diamond, advising parents that babies should sleep on their backs. Within a month, the number of cot deaths had fallen by between 30% to 40% and, after two years, by 60%.

Professor Fleming said: 'Thanks to continued research at the University and collaborations with different research groups, the work we do has enabled us to have had a considerable impact on over 30 different countries.'