Covid 19 antibodies and Breastfeeding
- Posted on: Dec 16 2021
Read our article on Covid 19 antibodies and Breastfeeding by MAPP lactation consultant Roberta Margot
Antibodies Against SARS CoV-2 and Other Pathogens in Human Breastmilk
For years, scientists have been unraveling the amazing mysteries of human breast milk, and its hundreds of growth promoting and disease preventing components. Perhaps like no other time in history, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused us all to pay extra attention to the role of antibodies in our personal and family’s health, and our ability to naturally or by vaccination combat diseases of all kinds, including the novel virus SARS CoV-2 that has negatively impacted many millions around the world.
An antibody is a protective protein produced by our immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance. It functions to recognize and latch on to the foreign substance in order to remove it from the body. There are 5 main types of antibodies: IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD, and IgE. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the fetus receives antibodies from his mother through the placenta. Colostrum, the first milk, sometimes known as ‘liquid gold’, is extremely rich in antibodies to protect the newborn baby, whose own immune system is not fully developed at birth.
In addition to the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, white blood cells, oligosaccharides (disease-fighting carbohydrates), omega-3 fatty acids, and much more, breastmilk contains large amounts of antibodies called Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SigA). These remarkable immunoglobulins help the breastfed infant fight off many bacterial and viral infections, especially those causing respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections.
Studies done since early 2020 in the USA and elsewhere, have examined the expressed breast milk of Covid-19 recovered mothers, and after December 2020, the breast milk of Covid-19 vaccinated mothers. Historically, it was known that women vaccinated against the flu and Pertussis (Whooping Cough) while pregnant, had these antibodies in their breast milk after delivery. The researchers hoped that the same would be true with the Covid 19 vaccines administered while a woman is breastfeeding. Research has now confirmed that in the previously Covid-19 infected and recovered mothers, as well as in the vaccinated moms, SARS CoV-2 antibodies are in fact present in breastmilk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported on a study showing 89% of milk samples from 98 vaccinated mothers in Spain had anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike protein IgA antibodies, and all were positive for IgG antibodies.
Another study done at Shands Hospital, University of Florida, from December 2020 -March 2021, looked at the breast milk of 22 lactating health care workers before and after receiving two doses of one of the mRNA Covid 19 vaccines. All milk samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2 specific IgA and IgG antibodies after vaccination.
A study led by researcher Rebecca Powell, PhD, CLC, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, begun in the summer of 2020, found (s) IgA specific antibodies in the breast milk of 95% of 75 pandemic samples from Covid-19 recovered mothers; these persisted for at least 7-10 months after infection.
Additional research is needed to confirm how long antibodies in milk and protection for babies might continue to last, and how their own immune systems respond. Another area of interest some scientists are exploring is whether the breast milk of Covid-19 recovered, or vaccinated women might play a therapeutic role in treating patients acutely ill with SARS-CoV-2 in the future. Breast milk continues to inspire us as one of Nature’s wonders!
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