Study launches on whether breast milk can protect infants against coronavirus

Health

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation have collaborated to launch twin studies into breastfeeding and breast milk as they relate to COVID-19.

In the first study, researchers will address two questions: “Is COVID-19 transmitted via human milk?” and “Can breast milk protect infants from COVID-19?”

“We already know breast milk contains properties that help protect infants from diseases, such as diarrhea and pulmonary infections,” said Dr. Lars Bode, director of UC San Diego’s Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk- Infant Center of Research Excellence. “We urgently need to determine whether or not the virus is found in breast milk and discover breast milk components with antiviral properties that could protect infants from COVID-19.”

The foundation is donating $100,000 to assist scientists at the research center.

In a collaborative effort with other human milk research labs, the center seeks to determine whether or not the virus is present in breast milk. These technologies will be available for clinical studies planned at UC San Diego and elsewhere. The center is teaming with UC San Diego virologists and infectious disease specialists to screen breast milk components for their potential antiviral properties.

“We have very limited data on how breastfeeding and human milk bioactives impact COVID-19, but we need to find out to help stop the pandemic,” Bode said. “In these extraordinary times, health professionals need reliable information to both protect the practice of breastfeeding and ensure the health of breastfeeding mothers and their children.”

The other related study with researchers at UCSD School of Medicine involves a newly launched effort to examine the short-and long-term effects of the novel coronavirus in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The observational study is being conducted by the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, a professional scientific society which provides evidence-based information on the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

“Women and their health care providers need answers as quickly as possible regarding the effects of COVID-19 during pregnancy and while breastfeeding,” said Dr. Christina Chambers, pediatrics professor at UCSD School of Medicine. “We know that pregnant and breastfeeding moms are contracting COVID-19, but the fact of the matter is that we know very little about its short- and long-term effects on a developing baby.”

The study will recruit pregnant women who reside anywhere in the United States or Canada. Mothers will be interviewed by telephone over the course of their pregnancy and postpartum period and will be asked to release relevant medical records from their healthcare providers. This information will be used to assess the course of pregnancy and outcomes for both mother and the infant.

Researchers will also track infant growth and development via the child’s pediatrician for at least one year.

Additionally, women who are breastfeeding and come into contact with COVID-19 will be asked to enroll in UC San Diego’s Human Milk Biorepository, a related study of breast milk. Breast milk and infant samples will be collected along with an interview regarding the mother’s symptoms and treatments, as well as information on the growth and developmental outcomes of the breastfed infant or toddler.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can learn more about the study or how to enroll by visiting mothertobaby.org/join-study/ or by calling MotherToBaby at 877-311-8972.

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