Jaundice in newborns could be an evolutionary safeguard against death from sepsis

  • Richard Hansen
  • Elaina Susan Renata Collie-Duguid
  • Georgina Hold

Press/Media: Articles in 'The Conversation'


In newborn babies, jaundice is so common as to be termed physiological. It affects around 60% of term babies and around 80% of preterm babies in the first week of their lives. Clinicians need to monitor it carefully and sometimes treat it, since it can lead to conditions like acute bilirubin encephalopathy and kernicterus that can damage the infant’s brain and cause developmental problems.

But it now looks as though this jaundice is not merely one of the pitfalls of entering the world. New research just published in Scientific Reports, in which we have been involved, suggests that it is one of the gifts of evolution. Humans may develop jaundice as newborns to protect from something even more serious: sepsis.

Period23 May 2018

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