Other coronaviruses are destroyed by thermal inactivation3. In particular, MERS-coronavirus is inactivated in camel, goat and cow’s milk at 63°C for 30 min4. However, it should be pointed out that the few available studies simulated pasteurisation in small aliquots, a procedure that does not follow human milk bank protocols. Based on the available data on other coronaviruses it is likely that, even if SARS CoV-2 is present in breastmilk, it could also be destroyed by pasteurisation, but solid data is needed.
Taking into account the available information, EMBA recommends to add to the health questionnaires utilised to screen human milk donors, specific questions concerning the risk of being a suspected or probable case (refer to the “Case” definition on the World Health Organization website: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/global-surveillance-for-human-infection-with-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)).
- Having stayed or transited in a risk zone during the previous 14 days
- Close contact with a confirmed or probable case of SARS CoV-2 infection during its symptomatic phase
- Person who worked in or attended a health care facility in which a case of SARS CoV-2 infection has been confirmed.
This makes it possible to temporarily suspend the recruitment of these mothers for 2 weeks, in order to ensure that they do not become ill during this period of time.
If an already established donor develops signs of possible SARS-Cov-2 infection (severe acute respiratory infection: cough, fever, sore throat etc.) with no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation, and/or reports a risk exposure in the 14 days preceding the milk donation, a rhinopharyngeal swab is recommended. Donation should be temporary discontinued until the result of the swab. If the culture is positive for SARS CoV-2, donation should be interrupted until a negative culture is found. If the culture is negative for SARS CoV-2, donation can be continued.”
To conclude, the NICE Guideline for the Operation of a Human Milk Bank (1) was developed with new infectious pathogens like the one the causes Covid-19 in mind, and is designed to keep milk banking as safe as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, and are donating or receiving donor milk, please don’t hesitate to contact the team and they will be able to help you.
- Weaver G et al. Recommendations for the Establishment and Operation of Human Milk Banks in Europe: A Consensus Statement From the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA). Front. Pediatr. 7:53 (2019).
- Moro GE et al. Processing of Donor Human Milk: Update and Recommendations From the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA). Front. Pediatr. 7:49 (2019).
- Duan SM et al. Stability of SARS coronavirus in human specimens and environment and its sensitivity to heating and UV irradiation. Biomed Environ Sci. 16(3):246-55 (2003).
- van Doremalen N et al. Stability of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus in Milk. Emerg Infect Dis. 20(7):1263-1264 (2014).