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Effect of pasteurization on selected immune components of donated human breast milk



Pasteurized, donated milk is increasingly provided to preterm infants in the absence of mother's own milk. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of pasteurization on the concentration of selected components in donated human breast milk.

Study Design:

Donated milk from 34 mothers was pooled into 17 distinct batches (4 mothers per batch). Aliquots of each batch were then Holder pasteurized (62.5 °C for 30 min). Interferon-γ (IFN-γ), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p70 and IL-13 were measured in a multiplex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), heparin-binding epidermal-like growth factor (HB-EGF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) were measured by ELISA. Lipids were assessed by gas chromatography and gangliosides by the resorcinol-HCl reaction.


IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-10 and HGF were significantly reduced by pasteurization (P<0.05). Gangliosides were not affected, but the proportion of medium-chain saturated fats was increased (P<0.05) with a trend towards a decreased proportion of oleic acid (P=0.057).


Pasteurization significantly reduced the concentration of several immunoactive compounds present in breast milk, but did not have an impact on others.

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The authors are grateful to Robert Polakowski and Paige Sorochan for technical assistance with ganglioside and fatty acid analysis, respectively.

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Correspondence to C J Field.

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Ewaschuk, J., Unger, S., O'Connor, D. et al. Effect of pasteurization on selected immune components of donated human breast milk. J Perinatol 31, 593–598 (2011).

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  • donor milk
  • NICU
  • necrotizing enterocolitis
  • preterm infants
  • formula milk

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