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Nipple Shield Protects Breast-Fed Child From HIV

September 23, 2008

Chemical engineer Stephen Gerrard of Cambridge University has developed a nipple shield that disinfects milk from a HIV-positive breast-feeding mother.

The shield uses a layer of cotton-wool soaked in a detergent used by biochemists to denature proteins for analysis. The chemical deactivates the virus, which prevents HIV transmission from a breast-feeding mother to her child.

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.

Gerrard worked alongside a team of five engineers to create a practical design for heating breast milk to deactivate the virus, but soon realized that another method could be even more practical.

“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.”

“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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