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The destruction of red blood cells known as hemolysis in the newborn baby is very dangerous, but existing clinical methods are not sufficient for rapid diagnosis and can lead to delays early-life care. A new Swietach Group paper has identified a biomarker that could significantly speed up the process.

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Hemolytic disease in newborn babies is a blood disorder whereby the red blood cells break down at a fast rate. Hemolysis in the newborn can be life threatening, yet direct assays for rapid diagnosis are not currently available for regular monitoring. Instead, current clinical management relies on resource-intensive measurements of downstream ramifications, which potentially delays critical decisions in early-life care.

Using a cohort of newborn infants manifesting various hemolytic states, a team led by DPAG’s Associate Professor Pawel Swietach has demonstrated that intravascular hemolysis can be detected by measuring CAI excretion in a small sample of urine using cost-effective immunoreactivity techniques. This biomarker is the most direct and immediate readout of hemolysis, and has the potential to be measured by kits similar to those used in pregnancy tests for point-of-care use.

According to Prof Swietach: "This method can improve resource allocation, identify ‘at-risk’ patients earlier, and may be implemented under minimal-laboratory conditions. The method can also address the inadequacy of testing capacity in developing regions, where haemolytic triggers tend to be more common, and include protozoan infections (such as malaria), sepsis, birth trauma and various genetic traits, such as sickle cell and G6PDD."

The full paper, first authored by Postdoctoral Research Scientist Dr Alzbeta Hulikova, "Detection of Intravascular Hemolysis in Newborn Infants Using Urinary Carbonic Anhydrase I Immunoreactivity" can be read in The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine.