Transmission of HIV-1 in the breast-feeding process.J Am Diet Assoc. 1996 Mar; 96(3):267-74; quiz 275-6.JA
Current laboratory techniques cannot distinguish the mode of vertical transmission (intrauterine, intrapartum, or postnatal) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) from mother to infant. The ability to transmit HIV-1 via breast feeding has been established in 24 case reports, primarily involving mothers who seroconvert after delivery. Whether breast-feeding adds a notable additional risk of HIV-1 infection to the risk from pregnancy is controversial. The importance of the duration and intensity of breast-feeding in modulating the outcome of HIV transmission via breast milk also remains unclear. Factors in breast milk may play important roles in an infant's susceptibility to infection with HIV and in the expression of the virus. Pasteurization and storage enhance the intrinsic, antiviral properties of human milk. Banked human milk is pasteurized to destroy the HIV-1 virus but retains properties that may be helpful to infants of HIV-1-positive mothers in developed countries where breast-feeding is not recommended. For infants in populations where the infant mortality rate is high, the risk of death associated with HIV infection acquired via breast milk is lower than the risk associated with not being breast-fed.