Concerns of possible genotoxic effects of hyperbilirubinemia and phototherapy were raised from experimental and observational studies in neonates. This study aimed to assess the impact of hyperbilirubinemia and phototherapy on DNA damage and apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes in healthy full-term infants. This study was conducted in the Children’s Hospital, Mansoura University. Patients enrolled in this study were classified into three groups (each with 45 full-term infants): group 1 was composed of infants with hyperbilirubinemia requiring phototherapy, group 2 infants with physiological jaundice not requiring phototherapy, and group 3 infants without clinical jaundice. All enrolled infants were subjected to assessment of DNA damage and apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes, using the comet assay and P53 by flow cytometry, consecutively. In group 1, measurements were done twice, before starting phototherapy and just before its discontinuation. DNA damage was not significantly different in the three groups, but it significantly increased after exposure to phototherapy compared to pre-phototherapy levels. There was no significant difference in P53 level in the three groups; however, it significantly increased after exposure to phototherapy. There were significant positive correlations between the duration of phototherapy and markers of DNA damage and apoptosis.
Hyperbilirubinemia does not influence DNA damage and apoptosis, whereas phototherapy causes DNA damage and induces apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes of full-term infants.