Jaundice, a liver problem that causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow, causes 114,000 newborn deaths and 178,000 cases of disability a year.
Three-quarters of the deaths occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, meaning the results of this new pilot study — published in the journal PLOS ONE and led by researchers at the University College London (UCL) — could be an important boost to health care professionals in poorer regions.
Senior author Terence Leung, from UCL’s medical physics and biomedical engineering department, said: “In many parts of the world, midwives and nurses rely on sight alone to assess jaundice. However, this is unreliable, especially for newborns with darker skin.
Our smartphone-based method provides a more robust assessment, ensuring serious cases do not go unnoticed. While we await the evidence of a larger trial, we believe that this method, used as an app, could help to prevent the deaths of newborn babies due to severe jaundice worldwide.”
Jaundice is caused by high levels of a yellow compound called bilirubin that is produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells.