Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)–specific antibodies have been detected in human milk up to 6 weeks post–coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination. We evaluated SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, neutralization activity, effect of pasteurization, and persistence through 6 months after vaccination.
This prospective longitudinal study enrolled 30 pregnant or lactating women. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and neutralization capacity were analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay compared at prevaccination and 1, 3, and 6 months postvaccination, and through Holder pasteurization.
Human milk SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG levels peaked at 1 month postvaccination and persisted above prevaccination levels for at least 6 months (P = .005). SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA was detected at 1 and 3 months (both P < .001) but waned by 6 months compared with baseline (P = .07). Milk SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG and IgA correlated with serum IgG at the same time point (R2 = 0.37, P < .001 and R2 = 0.19, P < .001). Neutralization activity was seen in 83.3%, 70.4%, and 25.0% of milk samples at 1, 3, and 6 months postvaccination. Neutralization most strongly correlated with SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG (R2 = 0.57, P < .001). Pre- and postpasteurization samples showed similar IgG (0.84 vs 1.07, P = .36) and neutralizing activity (57.7% vs 58.7% inhibition, P = .27), but lower IgM and IgA levels postpasteurization (0.09 vs 0.06, P = .004 and 0.21 vs 0.18, P = .043).
The data suggest that human milk SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies may be available to milk-fed infants for up to 6 months. In addition, donor milk from vaccinated mothers retain IgG and neutralizing activity.