Myanmar Jaundice Study Reveals Different, More Severe Disease in Developing Countries

Jaundice is the most common neonatal ailment requiring treatment. Untreated, it can lead to acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE), chronic bilirubin encephalopathy (CBE) or death.  Long-term effects of CBE include learning and movement disorders as well as hearing loss and visual impairment.  ABE and CBE have been largely eliminated in industrialised countries, but remain a problem of largely undocumented scale in low resource settings.

A recently published study (Arnolda et al., 2015) of patient data in Myanmar shows a higher risk of ABE at hospital admission among newborns born at home, and in neonates with G6PD deficiency.  The study validates DtM partner Thrive Networks’ experience with newborn jaundice in Myanmar and many other countries.  Delays in the diagnosis of jaundice and the start of treatment are common in developing countries, and as a consequence these settings experience a much higher incidence of severe jaundice than industrialised countries.  

Overhead phototherapy devices designed to US or EU standards are intended primarily to treat mild to moderate jaundice, and are less successful in treating severe jaundice.  Firefly's double-sided design offers high-intensity phototherapy over twice the skin surface area of conventional overhead devices.  This leads to faster treatment in general, and successful treatment of severe jaundice cases that might otherwise require an exchange blood transfusion.