A new study has found that pasteurising breast milk at 62.5 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes coronavirus. This makes it safe for consumption by babies, the study claims.
According to the research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, current advice for women with COVID-19 is to continue to breastfeed their own infants.
It is a common standard care in Canada to provide pasteurised breast milk to very-low-birth-weight babies in hospital. The process is followed until their own mother’s milk supply is adequate, the researchers said.
“In the event that a woman who is COVID-19-positive donates human milk that contains SARS-CoV-2, whether by transmission through the mammary gland or by contamination through respiratory droplets, skin, breast pumps and milk containers, this method of pasteurisation renders milk safe for consumption,” said Sharon Unger, a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.
The Holder method, a technique used to pasteurise milk in all Canadian milk banks at 62.5 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, is effective at neutralising viruses such as HIV, hepatitis and others that are known to be transmitted through human milk, the researchers said.
In the latest study, the researchers spiked human breast milk with a viral load of SARS-CoV-2 and tested samples that either sat at room temperature for 30 minutes or were warmed to 62.5 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
They then measured for active virus, finding that the virus in the pasteurised milk was inactivated after heating. More than 650 human breast milk banks around the world use the Holder method to ensure a safe supply of milk for vulnerable infants, the researchers said.