COVID-jabbed moms could be protecting their babies from the virus through their breast milk, suggests a new study.
Antibodies that fight the COVID-19 virus were found in the stool sample of infants who were being breastfed by vaccinated mothers.
Currently, children under six months cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine, so breast milk may be the only avenue for providing immunity.
Previous studies showed that the breast milk of vaccinated women contained antibodies against the virus but it didn’t reveal whether these antibodies passed to the baby.
Study author Professor Joseph Larkin III, of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said: “Our first study showed there were SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the breast milk, but we couldn’t say if those antibodies were getting through the babies’ gastrointestinal tract and possibly providing protection there.”
Now, researchers have proven that the antibodies are not only passed on to infants but can protect them against the virus.
Researchers studied 37 mothers and 25 infants.
They measured and tested antibodies found in the mothers’ blood plasma and breast milk soon after vaccination and then again about six months later.
The researchers found that the antibodies in the plasma and milk of vaccinated women were better able to neutralize the virus.
Study co-author Dr. Vivian Luaces said: “The antibodies ingested through breast milk may provide a protective coating in the infants’ mouths and gastrointestinal tract.”
The scientists used a technique called neutralization assay to reach their results.
They first isolated the antibodies from the stool and added them to a special line of cells.
These cells had the same kind of receptors that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter our body’s cells.
The team then introduced a COVID-19 pseudovirus. This acts like the virus that causes COVID-19 but is safer to use in the lab.
The pseudovirus is fluorescent, so when it binds to a cell, the cell lights up.
Co-author Lauren Stafford said: “We saw that when the antibodies were present, there were fewer fluorescent cells compared to our controls where no antibodies were present.”
Larkin added: “The antibodies run interference and don’t let the virus get to the cells.”
Finding antibodies in stool is significant as it shows that the virus can affect not just the lungs but also the gut.
However, the antibody levels decreased at the six-month mark, showing that the effects wear off similarly to the vaccine.
Co-author Professor Josef Neu said: “In our research, we’re following the journey of the antibodies, from the time they are produced in mum after vaccination and now through the baby’s digestive system.
“The next question is whether those babies are less likely to get COVID-19.”
To answer that question the researchers say a larger study would be needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, and for those who may become pregnant in the future.
According to the NHS, more than 100,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated in the UK.
As of late November 2022, the CDC reported that just over 70 percent of pregnant women in the US had had their first Covid-19 vaccine, with only 14 percent having received their booster.
The findings were published in the Journal of Perinatology.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
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