Colour grading of baby stools as a clinical aid

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  • Published: Oct 13, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Base Peak / Proteomics / X-ray Spectrometry / Chemometrics & Informatics / NMR Knowledge Base / Raman / Infrared Spectroscopy / Atomic / MRI Spectroscopy

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The changes in colour of the stools from healthy neonatal babies have been categorised by spectral reflectance to form the basis of a system for detecting clinical defects.

Newborn baby poo undergoes some remarkable colour changes in the first few days of life, transforming from black to green/brown to yellow, before slowly evolving to the dark brown colour of "normal" stools. The changes reflect what is going on inside the body, so any notable variations could indicate a clinical problem. For instance, the appearance of pale poo be a sign of biliary atresia, in which the bile duct is blocked or absent.

Colour charts have been introduced in some countries to help detect unusually coloured stools but a group of scientists in London, UK has gone one step further. They used the spectral reflectances at 390-700 nm to characterise the different colours in faeces from babies aged 3-64 days and fitted the data to a pigment mixture model, as described in Color Research & Application.

In this way, three groups of pigments were primarily responsible for the colour variations. The major component that contributed to the pale colour in stools was attributed to partially digested milk fats. A yellow component was due to the presence of stercobilin, stercobilinogen and related bile pigments while the third, a dark component, was due to meconium and undigested bilirubin.

A model incorporating these three factors accurately predicted the colours of 97% of the stools, which were primarily tan, olive or beige, some samples being grey and white. So, using simple equipment which would not stretch clinical budgets, abnormally coloured baby stools could be easily distinguished from the range of colours observed in the days following birth, which could help to identify any internal problems for the newborns.

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