Berkeley -- A simple method of flash-heating breast milk infected with HIV successfully inactivated the free-floating virus, according to a new study led by researchers at the Berkeley and Davis campuses of the University of California.
Notably, the technique - heating a glass jar of expressed breast milk in a pan of water over a flame or single burner - can be easily applied in the homes of mothers in resource-poor communities.
The findings, to appear in the July 1 print issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, but now available online, provide hope that mothers with HIV in developing nations will soon be able to more safely feed their babies.
"We conducted this research to help HIV-positive mothers and their infants who do not have safe alternatives to breastfeeding," said Kiersten Israel-Ballard, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "HIV can be transmitted to the baby via breastfeeding. But for infants in developing countries where infant mortality is already so high from diarrhea and other illnesses, they can't afford to lose the antibodies, other anti-infective agents and the optimal nutrition found in breast milk. This study shows that an easy-to-implement heating method can kill the HIV in breast milk."
This line of research began when HIV-positive women in Zimbabwe asked how they could make their milk safe for their babies. Israel-Ballard conducted a study there that indicated that HIV-positive women wanted to attempt the flash-heating method. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends heat treating HIV-infected breast milk, but there has been little research into a simple method that a mom in a developing country could use.
Studies by this research team have shown that flash-heating breast milk can kill bacteria while retaining most of the milk's nutritional and antimicrobial properties, as well as a majority of its important
Contact: Sarah Yang
University of California - Berkeley