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By Anne HardingJune 02, 2020

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Breastmilk samples from a nursing mother infected with SARS-CoV-2 has tested positive for the virus, researchers report.

“The breastmilk of SARS-CoV-2-infected women may contain the virus. However, we described a single case and currently do not know how frequent this is, whether the virus in milk is infectious and whether it may indeed be transmitted to the newborn by breastfeeding,” Dr. Jan Muench of the Institute of Molecular Virology at Ulm University Medical Center in Germany told Reuters Health by email.

Small studies have not found evidence of SARS-CoV-2 shedding into breastmilk, Dr. Muench and colleagues write. They tested milk from two nursing mothers with SARS-CoV-2 using RT-qPCR.

Mother 1 developed symptoms of COVID-19 after delivery and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The newborn tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and had respiratory symptoms. Both mother and infant recovered. Four breastmilk samples were taken from Mother 1 and all were negative for the virus.

Mother 2 and Newborn 2 were put in the same room as Mother 1 and Newborn 1. They were discharged on day 4. Mother 2 developed mild COVID-19 symptoms, and both she and her baby tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The baby was readmitted to the hospital due to icterus and breathing problems.

On days 10 to 13 after initial hospital admission, breastmilk samples from Mother 2 tested positive for the virus. Two subsequent samples were negative.

The authors note that Mother 2 had been wearing a surgical mask after she developed COVID-19 symptoms and followed safety precautions while feeding and handling the baby.

“We plan to recruit more infected mothers to 1) determine how often SARS-CoV-2 is present in milk and at which quantities; 2) to figure out whether the virus in milk is indeed infectious; 3) to check whether the virus in milk could be inactivated by pasteurization and/or storage 4) to check for anti-SARS-antibodies in milk and their neutralization efficiency; and 5) finally proof whether the virus may be transmitted via breast milk to the newborn,” Dr. Muench said.

“Doctors should consider that the virus may be present in milk, but follow the recommendations given by the respective medical societies,” he concluded.

SOURCE: The Lancet, online May 21, 2020.

Reuters Health Information © 2020

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