The Department of Health said Tuesday it is studying a study conducted by a Chinese laboratory which said a mother’s breast milk could prevent or cure COVID-19.
“A research team in Beijing tested the effect of human breast milk on cells exposed to the Sars-CoV-2 virus. The milk was collected in 2017, well before the start of the pandemic, and the cell types tested varied from animal kidney cells to young human lung and gut cells,” Stephen Chen in Beijing reported in South China Morning Post.
“We will be reviewing this further,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The breast milk was “blocking viral attachment, entry and even post-entry viral replication,” the team led by Professor Tong Yigang from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology wrote in two non-peer-reviewed papers posted on biorxiv.org on Friday.
“In Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, newborns were separated from mothers who tested positive and fed exclusively by formula, according to Chinese media reports from February. The US Centres for Disease Control also warn that babies being breastfed by mothers suspected or confirmed to be carrying Covid-19 should be seen as “suspect” carriers too,” the report added.
However, the World Health Organization said mothers could safely breastfeed their babies even if they are infected, provided that they would follow standard health protocols.
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WHO monitored 46 COVID-19 breastfeeding their children in several countries through June.
Researchers detected viral genes in the milk of three mothers, but no infection was found. Only one child acquired COVID-19, but other means of transmission could not be ruled out.
“Tong and colleagues mixed some healthy cells in human breast milk, then washed the milk off and exposed the cells to the virus. They observed there was almost no viral binding or entry to these cells, and the treatment also halted viral replication in cells already infected,” South China Morning Post reported.
The researchers concluded that the infection could be inhibited by breast milk, which is already known to have suppressive effects on bacteria and viruses such as HIV.
“It is worth identifying the key factors for further antiviral drug development,” they concluded.