Kenya: COVID-19 - No Live Virus Found in Breast Milk

Bottles of pumped breast milk (file photo).

Breastfeeding mothers do not appear to be passing the novel coronavirus to their babies.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), current evidence shows that breastfeeding outweighs any potential risks of transmission of Covid-19.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "We know that children are at relatively low risk of Covid-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents."

Anshu Banerjee, a senior advisor in the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, said only "fragments" of the virus had been detected in breast milk, not live virus.

"So far we have not been able to detect live virus in breast milk, so the risk of transmission from mother to child has not been established," he said.

HUMAN MILK

Several studies which have been done on breastfeeding and Covid-19 show that there is no evidence of coronavirus in human milk.

A study published on the journal medRxiv states: "It is currently unclear whether SARS-CoV-2 may be shed into breast milk and transmitted through breastfeeding."

The researchers detected CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA) in milk samples they collected over a period of four days, and not the virus.

However, experts say little is known about SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk and more studies and researches are needed.

"Newborns can be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 after being in close contact with an infected person. Some babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth, but it is unknown if these babies got the virus before, during or after birth," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Merilee Brockway, a Post-doctoral Fellow at the department of Pediatrics and Child Health in University of Manitoba, Canada, "there are many benefits of breastfeeding including providing antibodies that contribute to strong immune system development."

As such, the WHO advised mothers to continue breastfeeding, while strictly following guidelines to avoid contracting the disease and passing it on to newborns.

WASHING HANDS

These measures include wearing a mask, washing hands and disinfecting surfaces which may come in contact with the infant.

Mothers who are too sick to breastfeed their babies are advised to pump breast milk and feed the infants from clean bottles.

Lancet examined milk from two nursing mothers who had been infected by SARS-CoV-2.

After feeding and nipple disinfection, milk was collected with pumps and stored in sterile containers at 4°C or -20°C until further analysis and viral loads were determined in both whole and skimmed milk.

Four samples from Mother 1 tested negative after admission and delivery (day 0).

But SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in milk from the second mother at days 10 (left and right breast), 12 and 13 while samples taken subsequently were negative for the virus, according to the research report.

"We detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in milk samples from the second mother for four consecutive days.

"Detection of viral RNA in milk from the mother coincided with mild Covid-19 symptoms and a SARS-CoV-2 positive diagnostic test of the newborn," states the research report.

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