Monash University creates rapid test for neonatal jaundice

  • September 16, 2021

Monash University in Australia has created a rapid and cost-effective paper test for checking bilirubin levels to detect jaundice in newborns.  The test could potentially become a point-of-care diagnostic for at-home and hospital use.

The test is co-developed by Monash University’s Faculty of Engineering, the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering and Monash Health.  The test utilizes tape-paper sensing and requires a simple kit as well as a small quantity of samples and reagents.  A blood sample can be applied directly onto paper that separates plasma from whole blood and measures bilirubin levels using a colorimetric diazotization method.  The tape-paper sensor creates an even color distribution on the paper by eradicating the ‘coffee stain’ effect through two mechanisms.  Designed to deliver results in under ten minutes, the tests would cost only $0.6 each, Monash noted.

Monash University Department of Chemical Engineering professor Wei Shen said:  “The most promising aspect of the tape-paper sensing approach for neonatal blood sample measurement has been verified in comparison with the current hospital pathology laboratory method.  And it can be done in the family home, anywhere in the world, with almost instant results.”

The new device was tested to check the bilirubin levels of jaundiced neonates aged one (1) to 15 days using blood samples supplied by Monash Children’s Hospital.  It measured bilirubin levels below or above the threshold concentration by comparing the color intensity.  Furthermore, the device will be studied in a bedside setting before commercialization.

A common condition, jaundice affects nearly 60% of newborns within 15 days of birth.  Their bilirubin levels can increase at approximately two (2) to four (4) days of age.  Some babies with jaundice need hospitalization for a period of phototherapy and if untreated, the disease can lead to brain damage.

The new test could aid in easy monitoring of bilirubin levels, especially for babies in remote and regional areas or under-resourced poorer countries, in turn enabling better treatment.

REFERENCE:  Medical Device Network; 25 JUN 2021

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