Concerns that milk from life-saving human breast milk banks could spread COVID-19 have been disproven thanks to new research.
A team from UNSW Sydney and Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Milk have earned their milk money, by proving pasteurisation kills the virus.
Donated milk from the five Australian milk banks is used to keep preterm babies alive in hospital when their mothers are unable to provide for them, so the scientists wanted to confirm that pasteurising it — heating it to 63 degree Celsius for 30 minutes — renders the milk safe.
The research confirmed that milk bank pasteurisation processes have been safe throughout the pandemic, and will continue to be so.
UNSW Medicine PhD candidate Greg Walker said that while there was no evidence the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through breast milk, there was always a theoretical risk.
“We’ve seen in previous pandemics that pasteurised donor human milk (PDHM) supplies may be interrupted because of safety considerations, so that’s why we wanted to show that PDHM remains safe,” Mr Walker said.
The team simulated a worst-case scenario by deliberately infecting both frozen and freshly-expressed breast milk from healthy Lifeblood Milk donors.
“The amount of virus we use in the lab is a lot higher than what would be found in breast milk from women who have COVID-19 – so we can be really confident in these findings,” Mr Walker said.
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