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COVID: 19 Antibodies Pass from Vaccinated Mothers to Baby Through Breast Milk: Research shows

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Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can safely take the vaccine and pass on the passive immunity against SARS CoV-2 through their breast milk, according to the research published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

A participant-driven immunological study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, measured the immune responses to Covid mRNA vaccine in the collected breast milk samples and the stools of breast-fed infants. 

The primary focus of the study involving 30 vaccinated lactating mothers across the US is to show the SARS Cov-2 antibodies are transferred in the babies through breast milk. The Lead Author, Vignesh Narayanaswamy informs that this is the first study to use stool samples from infants of vaccinated mothers to detect SARS CoV-2 antibodies. 

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In the study, the mothers providing breast milk samples received the vaccinations between January and April 2021. The samples included,

  • Breast milk -21 days before vaccination.
  • Breast milk sample -2 to 3 weeks post 1st dose and three weeks post 2nd dose.
  • Samples of Blood spots on cards- 19 days post 1st dose and 21 days after the2nd dose.
  • Infant stool samples, collected after 21 days of the second vaccine dose of the mother.

Another mention of the study is that pre-pandemic samples of breast milk, dried blood spots, and infant stool were included as controls.. 

The collected samples tested for receptor-binding domains(RBD) of immunoglobulins (IgA and IgG antibodies) showed the breast milk samples neutralizing the spike proteins of SARS CoV-2. Thus, a significant rise in immune responses was observed in the breast milk samples against the Covid-19 virus and its four variants. 

The Anti-RBD IgA and IgG antibodies of 30 – 33% were also present in the infant stool samples. The breast milk of mothers also had persistent levels of SARS CoV-2 specific IgA and IgG immunoglobulins.   

An interesting aspect noted here is that the levels of antibodies reciprocated the vaccine side effects experienced by the mother. In simple words, the mothers who experienced vaccine symptoms had more antibodies seen in their infant’s stool samples. In a way, lactating mothers feeling sick after vaccination benefited their infants with extra antibodies. 

While Mr Vignesh Narayanaswamy noted the presence of antibodies in infants of a broad age group from 1.5 months old to 23 months old. The mothers were satisfied knowing their babies have antibodies transferred via breast milk that can help fight SARS CoV2. 

Findings show that “Even if you had COVID, there is an element of benefit for women to get the vaccine after COVID.” The final conclusions display compelling evidence encouraging women to continue breastfeeding after vaccination. 

Arcaro notes, “lactating and pregnant women were urged to get vaccinated and no vaccine trials were conducted for breastfeeding and lactating mothers.” The lactating mothers or pregnant women who will get vaccinated can rest assured of the baby’s immunity shield against SARS CoV2.

Also Read: Omicron spreading rapidly, stay alert, avoid panic: PM Modi

The research team included Arcaro’s UMass colleagues, Dominique Alfandari, Brian Pentecost and Sallie Schneider; Dr. Corina Schoen, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate; and Ryan Baker, a UMass Amherst undergraduate student. 

Participants of the study were familiar with Arcaro’s wide-ranging breast milk research, including the New Moms Wellness Study and BRCA gene-mutation research focussed by Narayanaswamy

Study Reference:

Neutralizing Antibodies and Cytokines in Breast Milk After Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) mRNA Vaccination, Obstetrics & Gynecology (2022). DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004661

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