MOSCOW, Idaho — A study from a multi-institutional team led by the University of Idaho shows breastfeeding women with COVID-19 do not pass along the virus but do transfer milk-borne antibodies. Those antibodies can neutralize the virus, according to the study.
University of Idaho researchers Michelle McGuire and Mark McGuire led the study, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded. The research team analyzed 37 milk samples from 18 women diagnosed with COVID-19. None of the samples contained the virus, but nearly two-thirds of the samples did have two antibodies specific to COVID-19.
“Taken together, our data do not support maternal-to-infant transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via milk,” the researchers reported Tuesday in the journal mBio published by the American Society for Microbiology. “These results support recommendations to continue breastfeeding during mild-to-moderate maternal COVID-19 illness.”
The research team includes scientists from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, University of Rochester Medical Center and Washington State University. Nearly 50 women diagnosed with COVID-19 are enrolled, and the team has followed their progress for as long as two months.
The initial study published in mBio reported on the first group of 18 women who submitted milk samples. Results from the larger study funded by the Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation are coming. According to a news release, the researchers are confident they will support, expand, and confirm the initial findings.