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Study investigates the role of antibodies against COVID-19 in human milk


19/08/2021

Eduardo Gomes (Fiocruz Amazônia)

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In Manaus, the estimated population of pregnant women is 28.4 thousand, and of postpartum women, 4.7 thousand. According to data from the COVID-19 Manaus Vaccinometer, so far, only 6,606 pregnant women and 1,680 mothers have received the first dose of the vaccine. Coordinated by researchers from the Leônidas & Maria Deane Institute (Fiocruz Amazônia) and the Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM), a study is investigating the importance of anti-Sars-CoV-2 antibodies, present in human milk, in protecting the baby against COVID-19.

The project is recruiting volunteers (Photo: Eduardo Gomes)

The PROTECTCoV-19 project team is recruiting pregnant women, as of the 28th week of gestation, and postpartum women, aged 18 years or older, to participate in the study, which aims to find out the antibodies role in breast milk in protecting against COVID-19. So far, 276 women have been included in the project. Recruitment will continue to take place until the team reaches the 800-participant mark.

The food chemist, Lirna Souza, 33, decided to participate in the study as soon as she found out about it, because she believes that besides finding answers to her questions, it will also help scientific discoveries. "There is that curiosity to know if we are really going to produce the antibodies after the vaccination and if we are going to pass them to the baby through the milk. Participating in this study will be good for research, for science, and for other people who have the same questioning", she says.

According to the researchers, the pregnant and postpartum women vaccination is a major breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. According to the project coordinators, Pritesh Lalwani and Jaila Borges, there are already studies showing that in vaccinated pregnant and postpartum women, antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 are detected in the milk, which will probably benefit the baby that is breastfed.

“Breast Milk is not only a source of nutrition, but also a source of antibodies that the mother passes on to the baby. Vaccination is still low in the pregnant and postpartum women population. Breastfeeding helps protect babies in the first months of life, when the immune response is being formed", explained Pritesh Lalwani, a researcher at Fiocruz Amazônia.

In the next 30 days, the researchers plan to release this study's first results. The PROTECTCoV-19 project gains new appeal in the month of August, marked by campaigns that symbolize the month of breastfeeding in Brazil and the world breastfeeding week.

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