Flash-heat inactivation of HIV-1 in human milk: A potential method to reduce postnatal transmission in developing countries

Kiersten Israel-Ballard, Richard Donovan, Caroline J Chantry, Anna Coutsoudis, Haynes Sheppard, Lindiwe Sibeko, Barbara Abrams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Up to 40% of all mother-to-child transmission of HIV occurs by means of breast-feeding; yet, in developing countries, infant formula may not be a safe option. The World Health Organization recommends heat-treated breast milk as an infant-feeding alternative. We investigated the ability of a simple method, flash-heat, to inactivate HIV in breast milk from HIV-positive mothers. METHODS: Ninety-eight breast milk samples, collected from 84 HIV-positive mothers in a periurban settlement in South Africa, were aliquoted to unheated control and flash-heating. Reverse transcriptase (RT) assays (lower detection limit of 400 HIV copies/mL) were performed to differentiate active versus inactivated cell-free HIV in unheated and flash-heated samples. RESULTS: We found detectable HIV in breast milk samples from 31% (26 of 84) of mothers. After adjusting for covariates, multivariate logistic regression showed a statistically significant negative association between detectable virus in breast milk and maternal CD4 T-lymphocyte count (P = 0.045) and volume of breast milk expressed (P = 0.01) and a positive association with use of multivitamins (P = 0.03). All flash-heated samples showed undetectable levels of cell-free HIV-1 as detected by the RT assay (P < 0.00001). CONCLUSIONS: Flash-heat can inactivate HIV in naturally infected breast milk from HIV-positive women. Field studies are urgently needed to determine the feasibility of in-home flash-heating breast milk to improve infant health while reducing postnatal transmission of HIV in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-323
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2007

Keywords

  • Breast milk
  • Flash-heat
  • Heat-treat
  • HIV
  • Mother-to-child transmission
  • Pasteurization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Immunology

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