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Holder pasteurisation (63°C for 30 min) inactivates SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk

Author Prof. E. Harms, University Department of Pediatrics Münster

The SARS-CoV-2 virus also passes into breast milk in case of COVID-19 infections. But even if not fed directly via breastfeeding, the current pandemic means that breast milk may also be contaminated with the virus while or after it is expressed. Two publications from Canada [1] and from Ulm [2] with practically identical study designs both show that SARS-CoV-2 can be effectively inactivated through Holder pasteurisation, i.e. heating the milk to 63°C for 30 minutes. The studies measured the viable viral load in samples of non-infected expressed breast milk that had been spiked with a set viral load and then pasteurised or incubated at room temperature for 30 minutes. The viable viral load had also decreased somewhat at room temperature, possibly due to antiviral properties of the breast milk itself.

Comment: Holder pasteurisation is an effective method of inactivating SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, thereby allowing COVID-19 positive mothers to feed their milk to their children, who can thus benefit from what breast milk has to offer.

[1] Unger S, Christie-Holmes N, Guvenc F et al. Holder pasteurization of donated human milk is effective in inactivating SARS-CoV-2. CMAJ 2020, 192: E871–874.
[2] Conzelmann C, Groß R, Meister TL et al. Pasteurization Inactivates SARS-CoV-2-Spiked Breast Milk. Pediatrics 2021;147(1):e2020031690.