Low-cost jaundice detector!

Low-cost jaundice detector!

BiliSpec is a low-cost, battery-powered reader designed to diagnose jaundice by immediately quantifying serum bilirubin levels from a small drop of whole blood. Jaundice, which is caused by the buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream, affects about 60 percent of newborns and can cause severe, untreatable brain damage or death if it is untreated. Standard jaundice tests require multiple expensive disposables and laboratory equipment like centrifuges or spectrophotometers that African hospitals typically cannot afford.

Babies in sub-Saharan Africa are about 100 times more likely to die of jaundice than are babies in the U.S., partly because doctors diagnosing jaundice in sub-Saharan Africa have little to go on other than what their eyes tell them.

The clinical study, which is based on tests in February and March on 68 patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, will appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Clinicians in sub-Saharan Africa typically diagnose jaundice by looking at a child and gauging the color of their skin or the whites of their eyes," said study co-author of the study.

The study showed that BiliSpec has comparable accuracy to the more expensive laboratory tests found in high-resource settings. Each BiliSpec test costs about 5 cents and can be performed in about two minutes right at the patient's bedside. The price is important because it could bring testing for jaundice within reach for cash-strapped hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The next step is a larger, two-year follow-up study of efficacy and usability that will be conducted at five hospitals in Malawi," co-author said.