"Many people in this field were skeptical that this would work," said Barbara Abrams, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and maternal and child health, and senior author on the study. "We wanted to be sure that there was scientific evidence that flash-heated milk was truly free of HIV, nutritious and immunologically beneficial. This study was done in response to the concerns of the mothers in Zimbabwe, and in addition provides evidence that field studies are warranted."
Banks that collect, store and dispense human milk already pasteurize milk, but the method they commonly use requires thermometers and timers that may be hard to obtain in resource-poor communities.
Flash-heating is a type of pasteurization that brings the milk to a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, a method known to better protect the anti-infective and nutritional properties of breast milk than the one typically used in human milk banks. Moreover, the low-tech materials used for this study are readily available in local communities in the developing world, and the heating method can be easily incorporated into a mother's normal daily routine.
Of the 700,000 children who become infected with HIV each year, an estimated 40 percent contract the virus from prolonged breastfeeding. WHO recommends that HIV-positive mothers avoid breastfeeding when safe feeding alternatives are available.
But in regions of the world where mothers cannot afford the cost of infant formula, water is contaminated, or other socio-cultural conditions make replacement feeding difficult, WHO recommends exclusively breastfeeding for up to six months.
"The risks and benefits of heating HIV-contaminated breast milk are different for women in developing countries than for women in the United States," said Dr. Caroline Chantry, a pediatrician and infant nutrition researcher with UC Davis Children's Hospital, and co-author of the paper. "Here we ha
Contact: Sarah Yang
University of California - Berkeley