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Study: Breastfeeding mothers produce COVID-19 antibodies

Women infected with coronavirus passed along antibodies through their breast milk capable of "neutralizing" the virus, researchers say.

MOSCOW, Idaho — Breastfeeding women do not pass along the COVID-19 to their babies through their breast milk, but instead produce antibodies capable of "neutralizing" the virus, according to a research team led by the University of Idaho.

The team studied 37 breast milk samples from 18 new mothers who were diagnosed with coronavirus. None of the milk samples contained the virus, but nearly two-thirds contained two antibodies that are specific to COVID-19.

The study suggests that breastfeeding is safe and even beneficial for children, even when their mothers are infected with the illness. 

"Taken together, our data do not support maternal-to-infant transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via milk," the researchers wrote. "These results support recommendations to continue breastfeeding during mild-to-moderate maternal COVID-19 illness."

The research was funded through a grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the University of Idaho's Michelle "Shelley" McGuire, a nutrition researcher, and Mark McGuire, a lactation physiologist. 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 also participated.

The study, which was published in American Society for Microbiology journal mBio on Tuesday, noted that 15 of the women studied had symptoms of COVID-19, while three were asymptomatic.

The research team is expanding their study to 50 women who were diagnosed with COVID-19, and has followed that group's progress with the disease for several months. Results of studies on the larger group are coming soon, the researchers say.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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