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Breastmilk Could Be Used In The Fight Against Covid. Here’s Why

Mothers who’ve been infected with Covid-19 continue to pass antibodies via their breastmilk for 10 months, new research suggests.

The study, led by immunologist Dr Rebecca Powell, suggests breastmilk can offer infants protection from the virus for almost a year. The researchers also believe breastmilk could be used in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, potentially cutting the number of adults needing intensive care.

Dr Powell’s team analysed breast milk samples from 75 women who had recovered from Covid-19 and found that 88% contained a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin A, or IgA.

IgA works to protect body surfaces – such as the respiratory tract and gut – that come into contact with outside organisms. The researchers found that most IgA antibodies present in breastmilk could neutralise Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus.

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The researchers also looked at the transfer of antibodies in 50 breastfeeding women who’d received a coronavirus vaccination. They found that women who’d received the Moderna vaccine passed on the most antibodies via breastmilk, closely followed by the Pfizer vaccine.

Women who’d had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – which is used in the US – had the lowest number of antibodies detected in their breastmilk of the three vaccines tested. The researchers are currently investigating antibodies in breastmilk following the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr Powell, when presenting the research at the Global Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium, said that as well as protecting babies, human breastmilk could be used in hospital treatments for other patients.

“It could be an incredible therapy, because Secretory IgA is meant to be in these mucosal areas, such as the lining of the respiratory tract, and it survives and functions very well there,” she said, according to the Guardian.

“You could imagine if it was used in a nebuliser-type treatment, it might be very effective during that window where the person has gotten quite sick, but they’re not yet at the point of [being admitted to intensive care].”




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