Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus in Human Milk Are Inactivated by Holder Pasteurization

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Potential donors of human milk are screened for Ebola virus (EBOV) using standard questions, but testing for EBOV and Marburg virus (MARV) is not part of routine serological testing performed by milk banks.

Research aim:

This study tested the hypothesis that EBOV would be inactivated in donor human milk (DHM) by standard pasteurization techniques (Holder) used in all North American nonprofit milk banks.


Milk samples were obtained from a nonprofit milk bank. They were inoculated with EBOV (Zaire strain) and MARV (Angola strain) and processed by standard Holder pasteurization technique. Plaque assays for EBOV and MARV were performed to detect the presence of virus after pasteurization.


Neither EBOV nor MARV was detectable by viral plaque assay in DHM or culture media samples, which were pasteurized by the Holder process.


EBOV and MARV are safely inactivated in human milk by standard Holder pasteurization technique. Screening for EBOV or MARV beyond questionnaire and self-deferral is not needed to ensure safety of DHM for high-risk infants.

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