New research says heating the human milk deactivates the COVID-19 virus. The milk banks can continue to donate breast milk to preterm and medically fragile babies throughout the pandemic. The donors are screened for any diseases and the milk is tested medically as even though virus transmission through breast milk is extremely rare there is always a theoretical risk.
During the previous pandemics, the pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM) supplies were interrupted because of safety concerns. This was a different way to show that PDHM remains safe. Milk samples infected with coronavirus were heated to 63 degrees for 30 minutes that simulates the pasteurization process in the milk banks. The virus used in the milk was of the worst-case scenario and more than what was found in women with COVID-19 infection.
After the process, it was found that there was no live, infectious virus in the milk proving that pasteurizing effectively de-activates the virus. It was also found that cold storage did not significantly impact the virus for over 48 hours. It only slightly reduced the presence of the virus but it was still infectious. This is one of the ways breast milk can be stored for babies even during the pandemic and donating breast milk for mothers with coronavirus is safe and there is no evidence that breast milk can be transmitted through it. Donated breast milk is recommended by the World Health Organization when mothers’ own milk is not available to reduce the risks of some health challenges premature babies can face.
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