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New research indicates human milk may contain antibodies to protect against future COVID-19 infection
Human milk is known for its protective benefits, especially for preterm and immunocompromised infants who are at higher risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), sepsis, and mortality. The research team at Medolac Laboratories in the US recently discovered human milk may have a new benefit: Protection against COVID-19 diseases.
Their new study published in the Journal of Perinatology shows human milk may carry and deliver protective antibodies reactive to SARS-CoV-2.
The study design compared two groups of human milk samples. Group one contained 41 human milk samples collected from women during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Group two contained 16 human milk samples collected two years prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Two significant findings emerged.
The first revealed 2020 human milk samples from women who experienced viral respiratory infection had 3.5 times higher S1 + S2-reactive IgG antibodies in their breast milk than women who did not experience symptoms in 2020.
The second showed S1 + S2-reactive IgG antibodies from 2020 human milk samples were higher than 2018 breast milk samples collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Production of these S1 + S2-reactive IgG antibodies in human milk is a possible protection against future COVID-19 infection in infants. In essence, the presence and volume of these antibodies could very well “provide a passive herd immunity to breastfed infants and protect them against COVID-19 diseases.”
The higher antibodies count in the 2020 human milk sample group indicate this passive herd immunity to breastfed infants may already be happening.
Such human milk antibodies could be useful to protect against and neutralize future coronavirus pandemics. Such protection would be invaluable for vulnerable populations.