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Flash-heating Inactivates HIV in Breast Milk: Study

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," said Barbara Abrams, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and maternal and child health, and senior author on the study.

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.

Studies indicate that when babies are breastfed exclusively, there is a 3 to 4 percent risk of HIV transmission. However, when babies are given formula or other foods in addition to breast milk, there is a significant three- to four-fold increase in the risk of HIV transmission, possibly because allergens and contaminants in solid foods and formula can compromise the epithelial lining of a baby's digestive tract, making it easier for viruses to pass through.

For this reason, WHO guidelines have recommended that after six months of exclusively breastfeeding, HIV-positive mothers wean their babies as soon as other foods are available. Even then, while weaning may decrease the risk of HIV transmission, studies have shown that it increases the risk of malnutrition, diarrhea and other diseases that can lead to infant mortality.

As part of the research, 98 samples of breast milk were collected from 84 HIV-positive women in
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