Drinking Breast Milk May Prevent COVID-19 Due to Antibodies, Scientists Hope

A hospital in the Netherlands is hoping to recruit a thousand women to donate their breast milk in order to explore if it could be used to prevent coronavirus infections and COVID-19 disease.

A spokesperson for Emma Children's Hospital of Amsterdam University Medical Center told Newsweek an inbox dedicated to the cause has received 5,000 messages since researchers appeared on TV on Wednesday urging women to participate.

"We expect a lot of these women are going to donate breast milk," the spokesperson said. "We are very excited that the number is high."

Those who agree will be asked to donate 100 milliliters of breast milk, according to a statement from the institution. Scientists will study the samples to see what percentage contains antibodies.

Antibodies which react to the coronavirus have been found in breastmilk, according to the World Health Organization, but it's unclear how strong they are, how long they last, and if they can protect against COVID-19.

Hans van Goudoever, head of Emma Children's Hospital, said in a statement: "Breast milk could possibly be used for risk groups when a second coronavirus wave occurs.

"We think that after drinking the milk, the antibodies attach themselves to the surface of our mucous membranes. There they attack the virus particles before they enter the body."

Van Goudoever said women who have been unwittingly infected with the coronavirus could also have antibodies that can be found in their milk. "We are therefore looking for mothers who have possibly been infected with the coronavirus, but even if this is not the case, a mother can register."

The call for donations came the same week as a research letter published in the journal JAMA suggested it is unlikely that the coronavirus can be passed on in breast milk.

"These findings are reassuring given the known benefits of breastfeeding and human milk provided through milk banks," the team wrote of their study involving 18 women.

Earlier this month during World Breast Feeding Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed mothers should continue to breastfeed amid the pandemic.

"WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolutely breastfeeding should continue," said Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, head of the WHO's Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit. "We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any (COVID-19) transmission through breastmilk."

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A stock image shows a woman breastfeeding her baby. Researchers are looking for 1,000 women to donate their milk for COVID-19 research.