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COVID-19 Research Updates

Breastmilk is safe! - Donor milk is safe!

August 18, 2020 - San Diego / Los Angeles
Study published in JAMA shows that transmission through breastmilk is highly unlikely
Our recent study published in JAMA shows no evidence of replication-competent (active) virus in human milk from SARS-CoV-2-infected women. In addition, we show that Holder pasteurization, commonly used by donor milk banks during processing, inactivates the virus should human milk ever get contaminated.

  • Background: Several published studies report the occasional presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in breastmilk from infected women.
  • Knowledge Gaps: It is unknown how frequent viral RNA occurs in breastmilk. It is unknown whether presence of viral RNA represents active virus that can replicate and cause disease.
  • Our Study: We analyzed a total of 64 breastmilk samples from 18 SARS-CoV-2-infected women in the U.S.1
  • Study Results:
    • Only one of the 64 breastmilk samples tested positive for presence of viral RNA by RT-PCR. - However, none of the breastmilk samples tested positive for presence of active (replication-competent) virus in culture, including the one sample that tested positive for viral RNA.2
    • Even if breastmilk was contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 during pumping and handling, Holder pasteurization, which is commonly used by human milk banks, inactivates the virus in contaminated breastmilk.
  • Conclusion: These data indicate that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mother to infant through breastmilk is unlikely.

  • Side notes:
    • 1) All but one woman had symptomatic diseases, ranging from mild to severe (hospitalized, intubated, ECMO, treated with remdesivir).
    • 2) Milk collection was standardized to avoid contamination. Both RT-PCR as well as culture assays were validated for breastmilk.
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