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Effects of Lipolysis or Heat Treatment on HIV-1 Provirus in Breast Milk

Chantry Caroline J.; Morrison, Pamela; Panchula, Jeanette; Rivera, Carmen; Hillyer, George; Zorilla, Carmen; Diaz, Clemente
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: August 1st, 2000

Background:Transmission of HIV-1 infection through breastfeeding is associated with integrated DNA (provirus) in milk cells. Reduction of HIV-1 DNA in milk may lessen infectivity.

Purpose:To investigate efficacy of two methods available in developing countries to reduce HIV-1 proviral DNA in breast milk.

Methods:Methods simulated field conditions; milk was heated by bringing it to a boil, for instance, over a cooking fire, and lipolysis was done at room temperature. Four HIV-positive pregnant women were recruited for this pilot study, instructed to feed formula exclusively, and to stimulate milk production using pumping. Milk was collected twice weekly for 3 weeks and analyzed qualitatively for HIV-1 proviral DNA by polymerase chain reaction at three stages: 1) fresh, 2) after standing for 6 hours, and 3) after having been brought to the boiling point.

Results:Seventeen samples from 4 mothers were analyzed. Fifteen of 17 fresh samples (88%) had measurable HIV-1 proviral DNA despite all mothers' having had low or undetectable plasma viral loads. Lipolysis (standing at room temperature) for 6 hours did not destroy proviral DNA: 6 of 7 samples (86%) tested positive for DNA after lipolysis. No samples of milk (n = 8) brought to a boil were positive for HIV-1 proviral DNA (p < .0001).

Conclusions:This preliminary evidence suggests that inherent lipolytic activity of fresh breast milk is inadequate for destruction of HIV-1; bringing breast milk to a boil may result in decreased HIV-1 infectivity; and breast milk cell-associated HIV-1 may not reflect plasma viral load. Nutritional value or possible bacterial contamination of milk treated in this manner was not assessed.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Caroline Chantry, University of California Davis Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, 2516 Stockton Boulevard, Room 334, Sacramento, CA 95817, U.S.A.; email:

Manuscript received January 24, 2000; accepted April 24, 2000.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.