Worldwide, more individuals have iron deficiency than any other health problem. Most of those affected are unaware of their lack of iron, in part because detection of iron deficiency has required a blood sample. Here we report a non-invasive method to optically measure an established indicator of iron status, red blood cell zinc protoporphyrin, in the microcirculation of the lower lip. An optical fibre probe is used to illuminate the lip and acquire fluorescence emission spectra in ∼1 min. Dual-wavelength excitation with spectral fitting is used to distinguish the faint zinc protoporphyrin fluorescence from the much greater tissue background fluorescence, providing immediate results. In 56 women, 35 of whom were iron-deficient, the sensitivity and specificity of optical non-invasive detection of iron deficiency were 97% and 90%, respectively. This fluorescence method potentially provides a rapid, easy to use means for point-of-care screening for iron deficiency in resource-limited settings lacking laboratory infrastructure.
Hennig, G., Homann, C., Teksan, I., Hasbargen, U., Hasmüller, S., Holdt, L. M., … Brittenham, G. M. (2016). Non-invasive detection of iron deficiency by fluorescence measurement of erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin in the lip. Nature Communications, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10776