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Breastfeeding Mothers Produce COVID-19 Antibodies Capable Of Neutralising Virus, New Study Shows

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A new study has indicated that breastfeeding women do not pass along SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) virus in their milk, but do transfer milk-borne antibodies that are able to neutralise the virus.

The new development was discovered by multi-institutional team of researchers led by the University of Idaho after analysing 37 milk samples submitted by 18 women diagnosed with COVID-19.

It was learnt that none of the milk samples contained the virus, but nearly two-thirds of the samples did contain two antibodies specific to the virus.

The study was reported in the journal mBio published by American Society for Microbiology (ASM) on Tuesday, February 9.

The research team stated;

… In addition, 62% of the milk samples were able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in vitro, whereas milk samples collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were unable to do so. Taken together, our data do not support mother-to-infant transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via milk. Importantly, milk produced by infected mothers is a beneficial source of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgA and IgG and neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 activity. These results support recommendations to continue breastfeeding during mild-to-moderate maternal COVID-19 illness.

Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, married University of Idaho research duo, Mark and Michelle “Shelley” McGuire led the study.

Mrs Michelle “Shelley” McGuire is a nutrition researcher focused on human milk and directs the U of I’s Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, while Mr Mark is a lactation physiologist and directs the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station.

The team enrolled nearly 50 women who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and has followed their progress with the disease for as long as two months.

However, according to Shelley McGuire, results from the larger study also funded National Science Foundation are forthcoming, but the researchers are confident that they will support, expand and confirm the initial findings.

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