Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 12:23 UK

Breast milk 'purged of HIV'

HIV particles
Cotton wool soaked in sodium dodecyl sulphate deactivates HIV virus

A simple nipple shield that prevents HIV transmission from a breast-feeding mother to her child has been devised by a Cambridge University engineer.

Stephen Gerrard, a chemical engineer, has helped devise the shield that can disinfect milk as it leaves the breast.

The device uses a detergent used by biochemists to denature proteins for analysis.

A layer of cotton-wool soaked in the chemical is added to a conventional shield and this deactivates the virus.

The layer deals with the virus without having to go through heat treatment which is the normal treatment to deactivate HIV.

The International Design Development Summit (IDDS) in the United States brought together engineers and field workers to work on research projects aimed at developing prototype designs.

Non-toxic solution

Mr Gerrard, together with a team of five others, was assigned the task of creating a practical design for heating breast milk to deactivate the virus.

"We quickly established this may be too lengthy a process for many women in developing countries so they might not have the time for it," he said.

"Research has shown that copper and copper compounds can work but another approach, carried out by a group at Drexel University seemed more promising.

"Their research has focused on sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS), which can kill the HIV virus quickly and in fairly non-toxic concentrations."

Their project could also have benefits beyond prevention of HIV.

"We were concerned that using our nipple shield could be stigmatizing, since it would identify a mother as HIV infected," said Mr Gerrard.

"We're considering marketing it as a way to deliver medicines or micronutrient supplements to aid breast feeding. For example, they can also be used for iron or iodine deficiency."



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