Internet-Purchased Human Milk Often Has High Bacterial Growth

(HealthDay News) – Human milk purchased over the Internet exhibits high overall bacterial growth and is often contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, according to a study published online Oct. 21 in Pediatrics.

Sarah A. Keim, PhD, from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues contacted individuals advertising milk on a popular U.S. milk-sharing website in 2012 to quantify microbial contamination. One hundred one samples were purchased and shipped to a rented mailbox; these samples were compared with 20 unpasteurized samples of milk donated to a milk bank.

The researchers found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of the Internet milk samples were colonized with Gram-negative bacteria or had a total aerobic count of >104 colony-forming units/mL. The mean total aerobic, total Gram-negative, coliform, and Staphylococcus species counts were higher than samples from the milk bank. There was a positive association between growth of most species and days in transit and a negative association with number of months since the milk was expressed. HIV type 1 RNA-was not seen in any samples; 21% of Internet samples were positive for cytomegalovirus DNA.

“Human milk purchased via the Internet exhibited high overall bacterial growth and frequent contamination with pathogenic bacteria, reflecting poor collection, storage, or shipping practices,” the authors write. “Infants consuming this milk are at risk for negative outcomes, particularly if born preterm or are medically compromised.”

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