For the majority of all babies born around the world, the journey from birth through the first week of life goes smoothly and without complications. However, for a small but not insignificant group of babies, this journey does not go as planned. These so-called "at-risk infants" may need monitoring and care in a neonatal ward, a ward for premature and sick newborns. Some of these at-risk infants are vulnerable to permanent harm or, in the worst cases, death. Oxygen deficiency during birth (perinatal asphyxia), prematurity (pre-term birth) and infection are some of the most common causes of illness or death in newborns. These babies are also less able to break down waste products such as bilirubin (which leads to jaundice) or regulate vital blood sugar (low glucose levels) — two conditions that, in themselves, can lead to severe brain damage.
In the western world, the infant mortality rate is low. In many parts of the world, there is no infrastructure at the foundation of labor and delivery care. Effective prenatal care is lacking which, in turn, means a lack of preparedness for the birth of at-risk infants. Many hospitals simply do not have laboratories and/or economic opportunities required to take blood samples, and beds for newborns can be insufficient in number or geographically far away. Although five-year survival rates have increased significantly in the last few decades, this explains why the infant mortality rate continues to remain high in the world. Every day, around 7000 newborn babies die worldwide.
Today, there are several options available to laboratories, known as point-of-care testing (POC). With the help of a method like this, a healthcare facility can get results faster with a small amount of blood on the premises where the patient is actually located. In the case of newborns, the problem is that currently there is no customized POCT solution for this patient group. The technology is not suited to infants' needs and healthcare does not have sufficient decision support to be able to decide how sick a newborn is.