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Can Breastmilk Help “Destroy” the Coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding forms the foundation for the nutrition, growth, and survival of a baby. It gives the precise amount of nutrition required by your baby. Furthermore, breastmilk also has the necessary antibodies that save them from various types of infections. Studies are performed to find out whether the shielding properties of breastmilk help destroy the coronavirus. The article equips you with the necessary information pertaining to the breastmilk and coronavirus research.

The recent study performed by Scientists Yigang Tong and his team reveals that the breastmilk contains whey protein that can destroy the COVID-19 virus. This research concludes that it wasn’t the antibodies but the presence of whey protein that suppressed the action of the SARS-CoV2 virus.

Researchers used several types of cells ranging from human lung cells to gut cells and animal kidney cells to do the research. They mixed these cells in a woman’s breastmilk. Later the milk was washed off and the cells were exposed to the coronavirus. Further, the sample cells were also exposed to the relative pangolin coronavirus -19.

The research findings concluded that the coronavirus and the pangolin coronavirus did not attach to the cell. This clearly showed that the breastmilk assisted in the prevention of the entry of the virus in the body.

The researchers also checked the impact of a woman’s breastmilk to the cells that are already affected by the virus. The result showed that the milk successfully subdued the “post-entry viral replication”. In simple words, the presence of whey protein in the milk prevented the virus from multiplying any further.

Earlier the scientists have been thinking that the suppression of the viral binding, entry, and reproduction was due to the popular antibody proteins such as the IgA and Lactoferrin present in the milk.

However, this research made it clear that the antibodies showed only “limited anti-coronavirus” properties. There was another component present in the breastmilk that led to the destruction of the viruses. The study made it clear that this component was whey protein.

In this research, Tong and his fellow colleagues observed that the whey protein present in goat and cow milk showed the same ability to “repress” the activity of coronavirus by as much as 70%. However, compared to cow’s milk and goat’s milk, the whey protein in human breastmilk was more effective. It resulted in 100% inhibition of viral activities.

Effectiveness Of Donated Breastmilk Is Low

Due to scarcity of breastmilk production, lactating mothers sometimes feed donated breastmilk to their new-borns, the researchers studied whether or not this milk will also be as effective in repressing the coronavirus. They figured out that if they use donated breastmilk, then the effectiveness will reduce to below twenty percent.

The reason for this huge reduction of the effectiveness of breastmilk is that it undergoes the process of pasteurization to save it from contamination. In this process, the milk is heated at 90 degrees for ten minutes. This process inactivates the whey protein present in the milk.

Continuing Research about Breastmilk and Coronavirus

The Department of Health has urged COVID-19 survivors to donate their blood. They describe that the antibodies present in the blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors can be used to find out a treatment for the coronavirus disease. Well, a few scientists have confidence that the donation of human breastmilk can also help find the treatment for the virus.

A human milk immunologist, Rebecca Powell collected breastmilk from lactating mothers, especially from the ones who survived coronavirus. She found that the antibodies present in the milk has high potential. They were stronger and more effective than the ones present in the blood. She emphasized that the antibodies contained in the breastmilk are hard-wearing because they are intended to endure the respiratory and digestive tract of the infant to fight against infections. However, she and her team still have not medically tested the antibodies for their efficacy.

Breastfeeding As Per The Investigation Of WHO

The investigation of whether or not a woman’s breastmilk can cure COVID-19 is still in progress. The key concern for several mothers is: Do they confirm or suspect coronavirus infection, will it be fine to breastfeed their baby even after being confirmed of this infection? The study performed by the WHO found out that, it is harmless to breastfeed your baby even after testing positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus.

Some of the highlights of the research that they performed on breastmilk and COVID are as follows:

  • 46 mother-infant dyads were employed for the research. All mothers and only thirteen infants were tested positive for COVID-19-.
  • The researchers collected samples of breastmilk from all mother contributors.
  • 43 samples of breastmilk were tested negative for coronavirus. They noticed the COVID-19 virus in the remaining three samples.
  • Of the three infants whose mothers’ breastmilk was found to be infected, only one was tested positive by the coronavirus.
  • The researchers can’t ignore the chances that this baby got the COVID-19 infection via other routes that include droplet transmission.

What Is the WHO recommendation?

Presently, the WHO approves the mother to begin or continue breastfeeding their baby even after she suspects that has got COVID-19 infection. If it gets confirmed that she is infected, then also she can breastfeed her baby. Furthermore, they also recommend for the baby and the mother to stay with each other and practice skin-to-skin contact.

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