There are currently several trials being conducted on a large variety of options for treating and protecting the public against COVID-19. Every immunologist and infectious disease expert out there is on the hunt for that special antidote to turn this whole situation around. One New York-based scientist believes that the magic potion we’ve all been searching for might be found within new mothers.
That’s right: we’re talking about breast milk.
Breast Milk and COVID-19
Human milk immunologist Rebecca Powell put out a post on social media requesting hundreds of samples of breast milk. She’s looking primarily for samples from moms living in New York City, but will also accept samples from women who have either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 or if they have a high risk of exposure to the illness. She needs them so much that she’s willing to pay for them – $5 per ounce. (1)
“There’s a lot of lactating people out there that are getting infected and would be ready and willing to donate milk — I can tell you because I have hundreds of emails of people who want to participate, and many of them have said they had highly suspected infection or a positive test,” (1)
Read: Mom Chooses To Donate Her Breast Milk To Babies In Need After Her Losing Her Son At Birth
Why Breast Milk
Breast milk is absolutely crucial for an infant to develop a healthy immune system. When breastfeeding, infants receive large amounts of bioactive components through breast milk and colostrum, with colostrum being the most potent natural immune booster known to modern science. (2)
Though there are a variety of bioactive factors that provide babies with protection against infections, the most important of these are the secretory IgA antibodies. These antibodies protect newborns from a number of illnesses and diseases (2):
- acute and prolonged diarrhea
- respiratory tract infections
- urinary tract infection
- neonatal septicemia (blood infections)
- necrotizing enterocolitis (an intestinal bacterial infection)
Not only that, but the composition of immune-boosting properties in breast milk changes over time to match the growing baby’s needs. Essentially, breast milk is the greatest “superfood” known to humankind. (1, 2, 3)
This is exactly why Powell wants to study breast milk antibodies, particularly from women who have had COVID-19. There are already studies being done on coronavirus antibodies found in recovered COVID patients’ blood, and she believes that those found in breast milk might have an even bigger impact than those from the blood. (1)
This goes back again to the type of antibodies, secretory IgA, found in breast milk. The majority of breast milk antibodies are this type, and they are more durable and resistant to degradation. They may not only help protect babies, but they could be used for adults, too. (1)
Read: FDA Approves Treating Critical Coronavirus patients With Blood From Survivors
How to Participate
If you are a new mother currently lactating and would like to participate in the study, you can find Rebecca Powell’s contact information here.
She asks that women pump and freeze samples of their breast milk every few weeks for Powell to pick up. She’ll first test the samples for the antibodies, which will be present if the woman has been exposed to the virus. She will then examine how many and what types of antibodies are present, how durable they are, and if and how they fight COVID-19. The hope is that they will be able to make synthetic versions that can be more widely distributed to all ages. She will be collecting samples and conducting her study for a year or more, however, any participating women can stop sending samples at any point. (1)
Read: Breastmilk Protects Infants from Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and More