COVID-19 Research Updates

COVID-19 vaccines and Breastfeeding Research

January 19, 2021 - San Diego / Frauenfeld, Switzerland
UC San Diego launches urgent study on COVID-19 vaccines and breastfeeding, with donation from Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation.

So far, breastfeeding women have not been included in any SARS-CoV-2 vaccine trials. The lack of data has led to some concerns about whether breastfeeding women should get vaccinated.

“Recommending that breastfeeding women forego either vaccination or breastfeeding will have tremendous global public health consequences, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” says Dr. Lars Bode, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence (MOMI CORE) at UC San Diego. “In fact, we believe that vaccinating breastfeeding women will also benefit the breastfed infant.”

The study being conducted at MOMI CORE in collaboration with Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Research Biorepository led by Dr. Christina Chambers, also at UC San Diego, aims to investigate whether maternal antibodies generated in response to the vaccine are transferred through breastmilk and protect the breastfed infant from COVID-19.
Results from this study could inform guidance by global health organisations that would help women make informed decisions about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination while breastfeeding their children.

Read the entire press release here

Breastmilk is safe! - Donor milk is safe!

August 18, 2020 - San Diego / Los Angeles

Study published in JAMA shows that transmission through breastmilk is highly unlikely
Our recent study published in JAMA shows no evidence of replication-competent (active) virus in human milk from SARS-CoV-2-infected women. In addition, we show that Holder pasteurization, commonly used by donor milk banks during processing, inactivates the virus should human milk ever get contaminated.

  • Background: Several published studies report the occasional presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in breastmilk from infected women.
  • Knowledge Gaps: It is unknown how frequent viral RNA occurs in breastmilk. It is unknown whether presence of viral RNA represents active virus that can replicate and cause disease.
  • Our Study: We analyzed a total of 64 breastmilk samples from 18 SARS-CoV-2-infected women in the U.S.1
  • Study Results:
    • Only one of the 64 breastmilk samples tested positive for presence of viral RNA by RT-PCR. - However, none of the breastmilk samples tested positive for presence of active (replication-competent) virus in culture, including the one sample that tested positive for viral RNA.2
    • Even if breastmilk was contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 during pumping and handling, Holder pasteurization, which is commonly used by human milk banks, inactivates the virus in contaminated breastmilk.
  • Conclusion: These data indicate that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mother to infant through breastmilk is unlikely.

  • Side notes:
    • 1) All but one woman had symptomatic diseases, ranging from mild to severe (hospitalized, intubated, ECMO, treated with remdesivir).
    • 2) Milk collection was standardized to avoid contamination. Both RT-PCR as well as culture assays were validated for breastmilk.
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