Breast milk does not Pass Covid-19 infection to babies, confirms JIPMER study
Puducherry: Conducting a study on 30 Covid-positive breastfeeding mothers, the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer), Puducherry has come to a conclusion that mothers do not pass on the infection to the babies through breastmilk.
The study was conducted by a team led by Dr B Adhisivam, professor and head (neonatology). The team collected and tested the breastmilk samples of the Covid positive mothers. Nasal and throat swab samples of the babies were also sent for RT-PCR tests.
Except for one, all the breastmilk samples were negative for Covid-19. In fact, a repeated sample test the next day showed the result as negative. The babies also tested negative for the Covid-19. The study was published in the Indian Journal of Paediatrics.
In this regard, the team cited a US-based study which concluded that the milk produced by infected mothers is a 'source of anti-Sars-Cov-2 IgA and IgG' (antibodies against coronavirus) and 'neutralizes Sars-Cov-2 (coronavirus) activity'. Thus, the study had recommended breastfeeding during mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 illness of mothers.
The breastmilk samples were collected between 48 hours and 72 hours after delivery. After this the all the 30 Covid positive mothers exclusively breastfed their babies practising all precautionary measures such as the use of masks, appropriate hand hygiene and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces.
On the other hand, the nasal and throat swab of the babies were tested one-two days after and another five days after birth.
While commenting on the matter, Dr B Adhisivam told the Times of India, "All the breastmilk samples were negative for coronavirus except one. A repeat sample of breastmilk from the same mother was also negative when rechecked the next day. All the swabs of the babies were also negative for coronavirus... could not find evidence for transmission of coronavirus from mother to child through breastmilk in the population studied.... Even the odd breastmilk sample which was initially positive could be due to contamination. Recent studies from Wuhan, China and the United States have also shown similar findings. All postnatal mothers irrespective of their Covid status should be encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their babies and follow general safety precautions. Moreover, coronavirus-reactive antibodies in breastmilk may also provide passive immunity to breastfed infants and protect them against Covid-19."
Endorsing the findings of the study, Paediatrician and deputy director (public health) of the Puducherry directorate of health and family welfare services Dr R Murali agreed that although they didn't come across Covid positive mothers during the first wave, several pregnant and lactating mothers tested positive for Covid in the second wave of the pandemic.
Speaking to the daily regarding this matter, Dr. Murali said, "We treated more than 200 mothers during the second wave and recommended them to breastfeed and we did not come across even a single case where the infection was transmitted from mothers to babies."
Medical Dialogues had last year reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) had earlier recommended breastfeeding even if the mothers were tested positive for the virus. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had told a virtual press conference that the UN health agency had thoroughly investigated the risks of women transmitting the new coronavirus to their babies when breastfeeding. He had clarified that whereas children had a low risk of Covid-19, they were at high risk of numerous other diseases that breastfeeding could prevent.