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UTMB researchers studying breast milk’s effect on COVID-19

One of the things they are looking at is whether an infected mother can pass antibodies to her breastfeeding baby.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Generic photo of mother cradling child.

GALVESTON, Texas — The benefits of breast milk are well-documented, but experts don’t know yet how it interacts with the coronavirus.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch are studying whether breast milk can help fight off the virus.

They’ll also look at whether an infected mother can pass antibodies to her breastfeeding baby.

Experts don’t know yet if the virus can be shed into breast milk.

“The well-known benefits of breastfeeding have been challenged by the dramatic worldwide spread of COVID-19,” UTMB’s lead researcher Dr. Roberto Garofalo said. “The potential infection of pregnant women and transmission to the nursing infant, particularly in the perinatal period, pose significant risks to the important early mother-infant bonding. With this study we want to investigate how COVID-19 and breast milk interact.”

Researchers will ask pregnant women to provide samples of breast milk after they give birth.

Along with being a nutritional source for the baby, breast milk can provide antibodies, proteins, fats, sugars and white blood cells that can help fight infection.

The benefits include reduced risks of asthma, type 1 diabetes, severe lower respiratory disease, gastrointestinal infections, among others, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The UTMB study is funded by a three-year grant from the Gerber Foundation.

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