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Current Affairs

Covid-19 not transmitted via breast milk

Date: 22 August 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Can breast milk transmit Covid-19 from a mother to her child? A new study suggests it does not happen.

 

Background

The threat of Covid-19 infection spreading through milk was a major reason for mothers stopping breastfeeding their children, leading to other issue in infants.

 

Details

  • The study examined 64 samples of breast milk collected by the Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Research Biorespository from 18 women across the US infected with severe SARS-CoV-2.

  • Although one sample tested positive for viral RNA, subsequent tests found that the virus was unable to replicate, and thus unable to cause infection in the breastfed infant.

  • Detection of viral RNA does not equate to infection. It has to grow and multiply in order to be infectious and we did not find that in any of our samples. The findings suggest breast milk itself is not likely a source of infection for the infant.

  • The researchers also mimicked conditions of the Holder pasteurisation process commonly used in human donor milk banks by adding SARS-CoV-2 to breast milk samples from two different donors who were not infected. Following pasteurisation, infectious virus was not detected in either sample.

  • The results and future studies will give women the reassurance needed for them to breastfeed. Human milk provides invaluable benefits to mom and baby.

  • Early breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome and obesity in children, as well as improved immune health and performance on intelligence tests.

  • In mothers, breastfeeding has been associated with lower risks for breast and ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Future work will not only look at whether breast milk is free of the virus, but also whether it contains active antiviral components.

  • For example, antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 that women may produce after exposure to the virus and then transfer to their infants through breast milk, protecting them from Covid-19.