A systematic review of contaminants in donor human milk

By Sionika Thayagabalu, Nicole Cacho, Sandra Sullivan, John Smulian, Adetola Louis-Jacques, Marie Bourgeois, Henian Chen, Wasana Weerasuriya, and Dominick J Lemas
Matern Child Nutr
January 24, 2024
DOI: 10.1111/mcn.13627

Donor human milk (DHM) from a milk bank is the recommended feeding method for preterm infants when the mother's own milk (MOM) is not available. Despite this recommendation, information on the possible contamination of donor human milk and its impact on infant health outcomes is poorly characterised. The aim of this systematic review is to assess contaminants present in DHM samples that preterm and critically ill infants consume. The data sources used include PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL and Web of Science. A search of the data sources targeting DHM and its potential contaminants yielded 426 publications. Two reviewers (S. T. and D. L.) conducted title/abstract screening through Covidence software, and predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria yielded 26 manuscripts. Contaminant types (bacterial, chemical, fungal, viral) and study details (e.g., type of bacteria identified, study setting) were extracted from each included study during full-text review. Primary contaminants in donor human milk included bacterial species and environmental pollutants. We found that bacterial contaminants were identified in 100% of the papers in which bacterial contamination was sought (16 papers) and 61.5% of the full data set (26 papers), with the most frequently identified genera being Staphylococcus (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative Staphylococcus) and Bacillus (e.g., Bacillus cereus). Chemical pollutants were discovered in 100% of the papers in which chemical contamination was sought (eight papers) and 30.8% of the full data set (26 papers). The most frequently identified chemical pollutants included perfluoroalkyl substances (six papers), toxic metal (one paper) and caffeine (one paper). Viral and fungal contamination were identified in one paper each. Our results highlight the importance of establishing standardisation in assessing DHM contamination and future studies are needed to clarify the impact of DHM contaminants on health outcomes.

View on PubMed