COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is responsible for the current pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus discovered that was responsible for the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic. A recent study has revealed that the presence of SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies in human milk could provide passive immunity to breastfed infants by protecting them against COVID-19.
A previous study also demonstrated the survival of Influenza A-specific SIgA/IgA, SIgM/IgM and IgG from human milk in the gastrointestinal tract of preterm infants, which suggested possible protection against influenza diseases. Maternal vaccination also modulates the adaptive immune responses by generating nonspecific antibodies, which may also improve protection against other infectious illnesses.
Subsequently, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that “pregnant women should be vaccinated with inactivated influenza virus (flu shot) and tetanus-reduced-dose diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) during the late second or third trimester to maximize protection against these infectious diseases in infants. Vaccine-derived IgG antibodies are transferred to the foetus via the placenta providing passive immunity against these pathogens.”
In this latest study, the researchers examined the presence and levels of SIgM/IgM, IgG and SIgA/IgA reactive to both SARS-CoV-2 S1 and S2 subunits and nucleocapsid protein in human milk. They also compared these antibody levels between vaccinated and unvaccinated mothers, women that had symptoms of viral respiratory infection(s) and women without symptoms. The results showed that SARS-CoV-2 S1 + S2-reactive IgG was higher in vaccinated women than unvaccinated women, higher from influenza-vaccinated women than non-influenza-vaccinated women.”
They further determined in this current pandemic, the benefits of antibodies in human milk where infants were exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months were:
- Human milk offers protection against viral respiratory infection.
- Decreased infant febrile respiratory illness.
- Infants of influenza-vaccinated mothers had significantly fewer respiratory illness with fever episodes.
Senior midwife, best-selling maternity author, and managing director of MothersWise.com Kathy Fray – who is also a global thought-leader on Perinatal Integrative Medicine as founding director of IIMHCO [Intl Integrative Maternity HealthCare Org] comments “this study detected generally high levels of SARS-reactive antibodies in most breastmilk, which are believed could produce passive immunization in infants against COVID-19 due to the potential overlap effects of the breastmilk immunoglobulins on the virus’s RNA S1 and S2 nucleocapsids”.
Fray explains “the fact that there is currently no effective oral antibody therapy for COVID-19 means human milk’s cross-reactive and polyreactive antibodies that already fight SARS-CoV-2 and other Coronaviruses, absolutely could be incredibly useful to neutralize and protect breastfed infants against this current pandemic, even when their mother has not personally been infected with COVID-19 – particularly for babies from mothers who have suffered from or been immunized against influenza. And that is potentially a big deal!”