LivingThey investigate if there are Covid-19 antibodies in the...

They investigate if there are Covid-19 antibodies in the breast milk of infected mothers, and if they could help in the fight against the disease

We still do not know all the details about how the new coronavirus behaves, and scientists are looking at ways to combat it, including more than 100 projects underway around the world to develop a vaccine.

Breast milk is known for its immunological properties, transferring protective antibodies from mother to baby to prevent infections and allergies. On this basis, Dr. Rebecca Powell, an infectious disease expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, wants to investigate whether breast milk could contain antibodies to the coronavirus.

In an interview with Vice, he explains that he has launched an investigation to discover if there could be Covid antibodies in the breast milk of infected mothers and if they had the ability to fight the disease.

To do this, he made a call on social networks for mothers who are infected or suspected of being infected and who live in New York City, the epicenter of the infection in the United States, donate their breast milk so that it can be investigated.

The news has circulated in the United States that breast milk from infected mothers could prevent or cure the disease, and there has been a rebound in the sale of breast milk on the Internet (by the way, something very dangerous). But this information has been completely disproved, since so far there is no evidence that breast milk protects against infection, much less in adults. This is the first investigation on the subject.

Antibodies in breast milk

Research is underway to detect antibodies in the blood of people who have passed the coronavirus and to see whether or not they protect against a new infection and for how long, but the same attention has not been paid to breast milk.

“It was never done with SARS, it was never done with MERS and even the flu, which is so well studied. Unfortunately, the data on the protection of breast milk is really scarce,” said researcher Rebecca Powell.

Despite all its benefits, human milk is not fully researched. While the evidence suggests that it is unlikely, it is not yet clear that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted through breast milk, much less if the milk itself can protect the baby from the disease.

The first step will be to look for antibodies in the milk of women in whom the coronavirus has been confirmed . Those antibodies will then be tested to find out if they work to fight COVID-19, or incite other cells to kill the disease.

If all goes as desired, if there are positive results, doctors could find a way to separate the immune properties of milk and infuse it into patients.

The researcher believes that antibodies from breast milk may have an advantage compared to those from blood plasma thanks to secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), which constitutes 90% of the antibody content of human milk.

“There are a lot of other things in [breast milk] that are these magical components that do more than help the baby grow,” Bode said. “They also protect the baby and the mother from multiple different diseases, certain pathogens, bacteria and viruses as well, and that’s really where the story begins, why are we so interested in this topic when we come to the coronavirus.”

A solution could be there, Powell said, “and I don’t think it should be overlooked.” However, he also said that the study could take months or even years, so we will have to wait to know the results of this interesting avenue of research.

And in the event that it cannot be used in this pandemic, studying the antibodies in breast milk could yield useful long-term results in any other health crisis:

“We could look at human milk to see if an infected mother makes antiviral components (antibodies, oligosaccharides, whatever) and then use that knowledge to produce those components synthetically, which is absolutely possible, and use that to treat adults.” said Lars Bode, director of the Center of Excellence in Maternal-Milk-Infant Research at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation at the University of California, San Diego.

Via | Vice

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