Here comes the sun

It’s a common story. A few days after birth, a newborn’s skin and eyes turn yellow. The diagnosis: jaundice, a build-up of bilirubin in the blood that poses risks of brain damage or death. The treatment: phototherapy under a blue light.

But what if there’s no blue lamp or reliable electricity available? Sunlight filtered through commercially available plastic films is just as safe and effective, according to a clinical trial conducted in Lagos, Nigeria, and published in September in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“In settings with no access to modern devices, we’ve shown we can use something that’s available all around the planet — sunlight — to treat this dangerous condition,” says senior author David Stevenson, MD, a Stanford professor of pediatrics.