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Factors associated with unexplained sudden deaths among adults aged 18-45 years in India - A multicentric matched case-control study.

BACKGROUND OBJECTIVES: In view of anecdotal reports of sudden unexplained deaths in India's apparently healthy young adults, linking to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection or vaccination, we determined the factors associated with such deaths in individuals aged 18-45 years through a multicentric matched case-control study.

METHODS: This study was conducted through participation of 47 tertiary care hospitals across India. Cases were apparently healthy individuals aged 18-45 years without any known co-morbidity, who suddenly (<24 h of hospitalization or seen apparently healthy 24 h before death) died of unexplained causes during 1st October 2021-31st March 2023. Four controls were included per case matched for age, gender and neighborhood. We interviewed/perused records to collect data on COVID-19 vaccination/infection and post-COVID-19 conditions, family history of sudden death, smoking, recreational drug use, alcohol frequency and binge drinking and vigorous-intensity physical activity two days before death/interviews. We developed regression models considering COVID-19 vaccination ≤42 days before outcome, any vaccine received anytime and vaccine doses to compute an adjusted matched odds ratio (aOR) with 95 per cent confidence interval (CI).

RESULTS: Seven hundred twenty nine cases and 2916 controls were included in the analysis. Receipt of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine lowered the odds [aOR (95% CI)] for unexplained sudden death [0.58 (0.37, 0.92)], whereas past COVID-19 hospitalization [3.8 (1.36, 10.61)], family history of sudden death [2.53 (1.52, 4.21)], binge drinking 48 h before death/interview [5.29 (2.57, 10.89)], use of recreational drug/substance [2.92 (1.1, 7.71)] and performing vigorous-intensity physical activity 48 h before death/interview [3.7 (1.36, 10.05)] were positively associated. Two doses lowered the odds of unexplained sudden death [0.51 (0.28, 0.91)], whereas single dose did not.

INTERPRETATION CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 vaccination did not increase the risk of unexplained sudden death among young adults in India. Past COVID-19 hospitalization, family history of sudden death and certain lifestyle behaviors increased the likelihood of unexplained sudden death.

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