Effect of Cold Storage on the Viable and Total Bacterial Populations in Human Milk

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Expression and cold storage of human milk is a common practice. Current guidelines for cold storage of expressed milk do not take into account the impact on the milk microbiome. Here, we investigated the impact of cold storage on viable bacterial populations in human milk. Freshly expressed milk samples (n = 10) were collected and analysed immediately, stored at 4C for four days, −20C for 2.25 months and 6 months, and −80C for 6 months. Samples were analysed using propidium monoazide (PMA; a cell viability dye) coupled with full-length 16S rRNA gene. An aliquot of each sample was additionally analysed without PMA to assess the impact of cold storage on the total DNA profile of human milk. Cold storage significantly altered the composition of both the viable microbiome and total bacterial DNA profile, with differences in the relative abundance of several OTUs observed across each storage condition. However, cold storage did not affect the richness nor diversity of the samples (PERMANOVA all p > 0.2). Storage of human milk under typical and recommended conditions results in alterations to the profile of viable bacteria, with potential implications for infant gut colonisation and infant health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1875
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


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