A global need for affordable neonatal jaundice technologies

Semin Perinatol. 2011 Jun;35(3):185-91. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2011.02.014.


Globally, health care providers worldwide recognize that severe neonatal jaundice is a "silent" cause of significant neonatal morbidity and mortality. Untreated neonatal jaundice can lead to death in the neonatal period and to kernicterus, a major cause of neurologic disability (choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy, deafness, language difficulty) in children who survive this largely preventable neonatal tragedy. Appropriate technologies are urgently needed. These include tools to promote and enhance visual assessment of the degree of jaundice, such as simpler transcutaneous bilirubin measurements and readily available serum bilirubin measurements that could be incorporated into routine treatment and follow-up. Widespread screening for glucose-6-phoshate dehydrogenase deficiency is needed because this is often a major cause of neonatal jaundice and kernicterus worldwide. Recognition and treatment of Rh hemolytic disease, another known preventable cause of kernicterus, is critical. In addition, effective phototherapy is crucial if we are to make kernicterus a "never-event." Finally it is essential that we conduct appropriate population-based studies to accurately elucidate the magnitude of the problem. However, knowledge alone is not sufficient. If we are to implement these and other programs and technologies to relegate severe neonatal jaundice and its sequelae to the history books, screening and interventions must be low cost and technologically appropriate for low and middle income nations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / economics*
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal / drug therapy
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal / economics
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / drug therapy
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / economics
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Phototherapy / economics
  • Phototherapy / methods*