Research Article

Antimicrobial proteins in sterilised human milk.

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 01 January 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:12
  1. M Raptopoulou-Gigi,
  2. K Marwick,
  3. D B McClelland


    Human milk contains factors such as IgA and lactoferrin that increase the newborn infant's resistance to infection. Preterm infants are fed pooled milk, which is normally sterilised by heating. After standard heat sterilisation IgA and lactoferrin were undetectable in milk samples. Pasteurisation also sterilised milk samples even after heavy artificial contamination and did not damage the proteins. Gamma-irradiation sterilised equally effectively but caused some denaturation of IgA and lactoferrin. Since most of the milk samples were sterile or had only light contamination with skin bacteria, there seems to be no need for routine sterilisation. If sterilisation is necessary, the method used should be chosen to minimise damage to milk proteins.