Filtered Sunlight Cheap Way to Treat Infant Jaundice

Filtered Sunlight Cheap Way to Treat Infant JaundiceFiltered Sunlight Cheap Way to Treat Infant Jaundice

Filtered sunlight is a cheap, effective way to treat infant jaundice, according to a study by Stanford researchers.

Jaundice — caused by an excess of bilirubin in the blood — leads to brain damage or death in about 150,000 babies a year in poor countries.

The problem is common in newborns, whose livers sometimes need several days after birth to generate the enzymes needed to break down bilirubin, which is released when red blood cells break down. Yellow skin and eyeballs are common symptoms.

In wealthy countries, jaundiced newborns are placed for several days under sunlamps that emit extra blue wavelengths of light and minimal ultraviolet or infrared ones, reports

It was established during World War II that artificial sunlight cures jaundice, which more than 28,000 soldiers developed after taking yellow fever vaccine made from human blood.

But hospitals in poor countries may be unable to afford lamps or lack a steady electricity supply to run them.

The Stanford team, whose work was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, tested whether real sunlight —which is plentiful at many hospitals in tropical climes — could be made safe enough for babies to lie in for hours a day.

They treated 433 babies for jaundice at a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria. Half received sunlamp phototherapy, and half slept in outdoor cribs or their mothers’ laps under canopies of plastic film that filtered out ultraviolet and infrared rays.

The sunlight treatment was slightly more effective, and the children did not have more sunburn, dehydration or overheating.

Researchers have designed a small greenhouse to be used in windier or colder climates.