Innovative Packaging and Pasteurization for Donor Human Milk to Improve Health Outcomes for Preterm Infants

Organization Location: 
Seattle, Washington, USA

According to the World Health Organization, every year an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm with preterm birth complications, the leading cause of death among children younger than 5 years. Human milk banks play a critical role in ensuring that safe, high-quality human milk, the most nutritious and immunologically beneficial sustenance available to newborns, is available to infants whose mothers are unable to directly provide their own milk. Current human milk pasteurization systems use legacy packaging that is thermally limiting, and dairy-based heating methods known to degrade many essential human milk constituents. PATH will optimize the quality of donor human milk reaching the most vulnerable preterm and low-birthweight infants by redefining the packaging design and materials and quantifying optimal temperature thresholds specific to human milk. These technological system improvements will enhance the quality of donor human milk through greater retention of immunoglobulins and other bioactive components. These innovations and developments will be transferred widely to milk banks, all current donor human milk pasteurization equipment manufacturers, and to the project’s partner manufacturer in South Africa to potentially improve health and survival outcomes for all infants who receive heat-treated donor human milk globally.