Approximately 3,000 premature, newborn and over-35 week old babies from 10 major hospitals in northern Vietnam will be screened for neonatal jaundice with the new Bilistick test.

Neonatal jaundice, known for the yellowish tint it causes in babies' skin and eyes, is a common medical condition around the globe.

Since the introduction of the Breath of Life (BOL) neonatal care programme in Vietnam a decade ago, the country's capacity to handle jaundice has seen major improvements. The programme equipped hospitals with special phototherapy machines for treatment, and trained clinicians and nurses to identify and treat newborns.

As BOL expanded in Vietnam, it identified a need to improve early detection of jaundice in newborns and thereby reduce the risks of disability or death.

The new Bilistick test, a hand-held reader with test strips that require only a small drop of blood, will be distributed to 10 hospitals in the north of Vietnam.

According to Dr. Carlos Daniel Coda Zabetta, BOL's International Project Coordinator, the new technology will better enable hospitals and health centres to identify when treatment is required and begin it as early as possible thus reducing jaundice morbidity and mortality rates.

Lucinao Moccia, International Director of BOL, said the Bilistick represents a marked improvement over current screening methods and offers an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the problem of neonatal jaundice.

"Current screening technologies are expensive and time consuming. Bilistick has the potential to revolutionise screening methods, resulting in reduced cost and faster, more accurate identification of patients in need of phototherapy treatment," said Moccia.

Ha Cong Thanh, Director of the Vietnam-Cuba Dong Hoi Hospital's Pediatric Department in central Quang Binh province, tells Vietnam News that the new Bilistick delivers instant, reliable and cost effective screening for jaundice.

"In the past, a quick jaundice test – in an emergency case – took two hours. For a normal jaundice case it took several days to get the result."-VNA