A nipple shield that disinfects milk as it leaves the breast has shown to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, BBC News reports. Devised by Stephen Gerrard, a University of Cambridge engineer, the shield employs a detergent used by biochemists to denature proteins for analysis, and a layer of cotton-wool soaked in the chemical is added to a conventional shield, which deactivates the virus. According to the BBC News, the layer deactivates the virus without having to go through heat treatment -- the normal treatment to deactivate HIV.
Gerrard said the project could have benefits beyond that of HIV prevention. "We were concerned that using our nipple shield could be stigmatizing, since it would identify a mother as HIV infected," he said, adding, "We're considering marketing it as a way to deliver medicine or micronutrient supplements to aid breastfeeding. For example, they can also be used for iron or iodine deficiency."
The shield is the outcome of a project assigned to Gerrard and a team of five others at the International Development Design Summit in the U.S. to develop a practical design for heating breastmilk to deactivate HIV. Gerrard said that the team "quickly established this may be too lengthy a process for many women in developing countries so they might not have the time for it." According to Gerrard, the team based the shield on research done by a group at Drexel University that focused on sodium dodecyl sulphate, which can kill HIV quickly and in fairly nontoxic concentrations (BBC News, 9/22).
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