In Brief

Could breast milk help stop the spread of coronavirus?

Chinese researchers say whey protein from human breast milk appears to halt viral replication

Human breast milk may help to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus, according to a new study.

The researchers, from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, say that whey proteins in breast milk can inhibit Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, by “blocking viral attachment, entry and even post-entry viral replication”.

And whey proteins in cow and goat milk may offer a similar, though less effective, protection. The Chinese team found that “cow and goat whey proteins could suppress the coronavirus by about 70%, but the efficacy of human whey was far more impressive at 98%”, The Times reports.

The findings, published on pre-print specialist site biorxiv.org, have not yet been peer-reviewed. But the results appear to support the recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) that mothers infected with the coronavirus should continue breastfeeding their babies.

For the study, the researchers exposed cells from the human gut and lungs to Sars-CoV-2. They then looked at what effect breast milk that had been collected in 2017 - prior to the pandemic - had on the cells.

The team “observed almost no viral binding or entry to these healthy cells, as well as the halting of viral replication in already-infected cells”, The Times reports.

“Human milk was able to eliminate the virus in a broader range of cell types” than animal milk, “but the researchers said it was unclear what had caused the difference”, adds the South China Morning Post.

In a further note of reassurance for mothers, a recent US study outlined in a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that breast milk does not spread the coronavirus and “may not be a source of infection for the infant”. 

Researchers are now investigating whether breast milk could be used as a treatment for Covid-19.

Recommended

Covid-19: everything you need to know about coronavirus
coronavirus.jpg
Coronavirus

Covid-19: everything you need to know about coronavirus

Indian Wells tennis cancelled - is Wimbledon in danger?
Novak Djokovic kisses the winner’s trophy after beating Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final
In Brief

Indian Wells tennis cancelled - is Wimbledon in danger?

Coronavirus impact on sport: ‘serious concerns’ for Olympics
Officials at the Japan Coast Guard base in Yokohama where a cruise ship is in quarantine following an outbreak of coronavirus
In Brief

Coronavirus impact on sport: ‘serious concerns’ for Olympics

Quiz of The Week: 16 - 22 January
Joe Biden is sworn in as president of the United States
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 16 - 22 January

Popular articles

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Who are the richest people in the world?
Elon Musk
In Focus

Who are the richest people in the world?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 Jan 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 Jan 2021

Free 6 issue trial then continue to