Scientists Develop App for Detecting Disease in Newborns

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. excessive / ɪkˈsɛs ɪv / (adj) – too much

    Eating excessive fast food can lead to diseases.

  2. impairment / ɪmˈpɛər mənt / (n) – the condition where a part of the body is not working properly

    My grandmother developed a hearing impairment as she aged, so I talk to her loudly.

  3. corresponding / ˌkɔr əˈspɒn dɪŋ / (adj) – equivalent or matching

    You can find the corresponding translations of the text in the last part of the book.

  4. midwife / ˈmɪdˌwaɪf / (n) – a person who helps women give birth

    He called the midwife as soon as his wife went into labor.

  5. complexion / kəmˈplɛk ʃən / (n) – the color of the skin

    Light-colored shirts match her fair complexion very well.


Read the text below.

Scientists from the United Kingdom have developed a smartphone app that can determine if a newborn baby has jaundice [JAWN-dis].

Jaundice is a condition that causes yellowish skin and eyes. It happens when an infant’s blood has excessive bilirubin [BILuh-roo-bin], a yellow substance in the blood that is normally filtered by the liver and expelled by the body. While most cases of jaundice are not dangerous, there are instances when it affects an infant’s brain. This can lead to death or disabilities like hearing impairment, brain disorders, and delayed development.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) tested the new app at the UCL Hospital to see how effective it is in detecting jaundice.

With a smartphone, the researchers took pictures of the white part of the infants’ eyes. The app then examines the babies’ eye color and predicts each child’s corresponding level of bilirubin. They also conducted a blood test for detecting jaundice in each child.

When comparing the findings from the app with the results of the jaundice blood tests, scientists were happy to discover that the app accurately determined which children were in need of treatment.

One of the study’s authors said that it is common for midwives and nurses to identify jaundice cases only by sight. He added that this practice is not as accurate as using a program, particularly when checking for jaundice in babies with darker complexions.

Another author believes that the app will address inaccurate diagnoses. Also, it would be very accessible because it requires only a smartphone.

Currently, the app is being tested further with 500 babies in Ghana.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think this app promotes self-diagnosis and dismisses going to actual doctors? Explain.
• Why do you think scientists are developing apps for disease detection? Discuss.

Discussion B

• What is the importance of making medical tools or procedures more accessible? Discuss.
• Do you think more health services should use smartphone apps to be more accessible? Why or why not?