Mother's milk could prevent or treat COVID-19, a new study by Chinese scientists has shown.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that a research team in Beijing tested the effect of human breast milk exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and found that most living virus strains were killed by the milk.

The milk was collected in 2017 and the cell types tested varied from animal kidney cells to young human lung and gut cells, said the report.

Professor Tong Yiqang from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, who led the team of scientists on the study, wrote in two non-peer-reviwed papers last Friday that the breast milk blocked viral attachment, entry and even post-entry viral replication in cells.

For the study, Tong and his colleague mixed some healthy cells in human breast milk. They then washed the milk off to expose the cells to the virus.

They found that the virus almost did not bind or enter any of the cells, and the milk had also prevented viral replication in the already infected cells - thanks to the whey protein in human milk.

The team also experimented with cow and goat whey, and found it was able to suppress the living viral strains by about 70 percent, compared to the nearly 100 percentage efficacy of the human milk.

Tong and his team concluded that COVID-19 could be inhibited by breast milk, which already has recorded suppressive effects on bacteria and viruses such as the HIV.

The new finding vastly differs from the previous notion that breastfeeding carried a high risk of viral transmission.

In Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected, newborn babies were separated from their COVID-19 positive mothers, and were fed formula milk.

Besides, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also warned that babies who were breastfed by mothers who were suspected or confirmed carriers of the virus, were suspect carriers too.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) however, has been firm in its stance that mothers, even if they have tested positive for the virus, should continue breastfedding their babies.

This was based on the body's tracking 46 COVID-19 positive mothers across several countries in June, which found that although viral genes were found in the milk of three of the mothers, only one child tested positive for the virus.

Source: South China Morning Post
Photo source: Astro Awani