Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy
Can Breastmilk Treat COVID-19?
Nov 12 2020
A new study pioneered by scientists at Amsterdam University suggests human breastmilk could help prevent COVID-19 in babies and adults. The study adds to a growing body of evidence exploring the virus neutralising properties of breastmilk and the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. Professor Albert Heck, a researcher at Amsterdam University says breastmilk is infused with antibodies capable of deactivating the deadly virus, which has now infected more than 52 million people around the world.
“The mother’s body makes antibodies that can neutralise the coronavirus,” says Heck. “The fact that these are also found in breast milk is probably to protect their babies from the virus. Ideally, we will find a lot of very strong antibodies against COVID in the breast milk. Then that milk could be used to protect not only babies, but also vulnerable COVID patients.”
Antibodies arm babies with passive immunity
When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold researchers theorised that breastmilk, which is already infused with antibodies designed to boost the immature immune systems of babies, could be used to fight off the virus. When mothers come into contact with pathogens, they create antibodies that are infused into breastmilk and bind to the malicious agent. Once ingested by the baby the antibodies offer passive immunity.
“You want the antibodies to be in contact with the mucous membranes for as long as possible to really create that protective layer,” explains Britt van Keulen, a researcher at Amsterdam University. To maximise contact with mucous membranes and create a strong layer, van Keulen suggests ingesting breastmilk in ice cube form.
Breastmilk delivers 98% success rate
Scientists at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology have also been investigating the virus neutralising properties of breastmilk, with a new study suggesting the whey protein found in breastmilk has a 98% success rate when it comes to “blocking viral attachment, entry and even post-entry viral replication.” As well as discovering COVID-19 antibodies in human breastmilk, the Dutch researchers tested their effectiveness after pasteurisation. The antibodies remained strong, suggesting human breastmilk could be used as a form of immunisation.
Rich in antibodies, white blood cells, proteins, good bacteria and antimicrobials, COVID-19 isn’t the only deadly virus breastmilk neutralises. Previous studies have confirmed breastmilk is also effective at protecting babies from viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Furthermore, it offers protection without compromising the growth of good bacteria, a trait that antibiotics don’t have.
Want to know more about the latest scientific breakthroughs? ‘Benchtop NMR – Bringing New Access to Technology to the Next Generation of Scientists’ explores how Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has evolved over the past 60 years.
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