TRAGIC figures released by the Office of National Statistics have revealed there were 41 unexplained child deaths over an eight-year period in Gwent's five county council areas.

The figures cover children who died from sudden infant death, known as cot deaths, which was first recognised in the early 1960s.

The statistics showed there was a total of 221 deaths in England and Wales in 2012.

There were 17 unexplained infant deaths in Caerphilly county borough from 2004 to 2012.

From 2004 to 2012, there were 10 unexplained infant deaths in Newport, seven in Torfaen, four in Blaenau Gwent and three in Monmouthshire.

Following the report, Professor Tony Lai, a heart specialist from Cardiff University’s school of medicine, has called for an increase in genetic testing to help detect heart defects in infants.

He said: "The causes of sudden deaths are often determined after a thorough investigation involving a detailed autopsy examination however almost 50 per cent of sudden death cases in young children remain unexplained.

"Many unexplained deaths are due to cardiac dysfunction, although no structural problems of the heart are observed at autopsy.

“Various inherited genetic defects can trigger sudden cardiac arrest in the absence of gross heart abnormalities. Detailed genetic testing for these inherited defects would help to determine how frequently cardiac genetic defects are responsible for unexplained sudden deaths in infants and assist family members to reduce their risk of sudden death. However, wide provision of this specific type of genetic testing to identify inherited defects remains an economic challenge for public service providers due to budget limitations.

“Nevertheless, the continually improving speed and reducing costs involved in analysing our genetic code for inherited defects should encourage healthcare providers to begin considering implementing this technology more routinely in order to help reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest and potentially save many lives.

“Investing in cardiac research leads to major (and minor) breakthroughs that can save lives.”