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
- 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.
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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