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Flash-heating Inactivates HIV in Breast Milk: Study

Durban, South Africa. Of these, only 30 had detectable levels of HIV before heating. Not all breast milk from HIV-positive mothers contains HIV naturally. Milk had been hand expressed into clean, locally purchased glass food jars provided by the researchers.

For each sample of HIV-infected milk, researchers set aside 50 milliliters in the original collection jars and used the remainder as unheated controls. The uncovered jars were placed in a 1-quart pan filled with 450 milliliters of water. The water and milk were heated together over a single-burner butane stove. Once the water reached a rolling boil, the breast milk was immediately removed and allowed to cool.

The researchers checked the temperature of the milk at 15-second intervals and determined that the flash-heated milk reached a peak temperature of 163 degrees Fahrenheit (72.9 degrees Celsius), and typically stayed hotter than 132 degrees Fahrenheit (56 degrees Celsius) for more than six minutes.

Viral analysis of the flash-heated and unheated breast milk found that cell-free HIV had been inactivated in all of the heated samples.

The researchers note that they used a reverse transcriptase (RT) assay to test for an enzyme produced by viable HIV since traditional tests for HIV do not distinguish between dead and live viruses. The RT test, however, cannot detect HIV within cells, but preliminary data suggest that flash-heat inactivates cell-associated HIV as well.

"We hope this technique will not only provide HIV-free breast milk that is safe to consume, but that the milk also retains the antibodies and nutrition that will help keep their infants healthy," said Israel-Ballard.

The findings will appear in the July 1 print issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.


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