A cheap and easy to use device invented by students at Rice University has shown, in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that it can detect jaundice from a small blood sample. Currently, lab equipment and disposable cartridges are used to detect jaundice early and accurately, but this is often too expensive and difficult to maintain in many places around the world. The BiliSpec device quantifies the level of bilirubin present in the sample similar to how diabetics currently use glucometers to measure their blood sugar levels, which doesn’t require much technical skill, can be performed on many kids visiting a clinic, and can be taken from village to village as needed.
Each test costs about 5 cents to run and results come out within about two minutes of placing a sample. The latest study involved 68 patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi and the results of the device were comparable against standard lab equipment. A larger study is expected to commence soon involving five hospitals in Malawi, which may lead to a much wider distribution of the device.
Here’s a Rice University video about the BiliSpec: