Transfer of monoclonal antibodies into breastmilk in neurologic and non-neurologic diseases

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 May 27;7(4):e769. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000769. Print 2020 Jul.


Objective: To review currently available data on the transfer of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in the breastmilk of women receiving treatment for neurologic and non-neurologic diseases.

Methods: We systematically searched the medical literature for studies referring to 19 selected mAb therapies frequently used in neurologic conditions and "breastmilk," "breast milk," "breastfeeding," or "lactation." From an initial list of 288 unique references, 29 distinct full-text studies met the eligibility criteria. One additional study was added after the literature search based on expert knowledge of an additional article. These 30 studies were reviewed. These assessed the presence of our selected mAbs in human breastmilk in samples collected from a total of 155 individual women.

Results: Drug concentrations were typically low in breastmilk and tended to peak within 48 hours, although maximum levels could occur up to 14 days from infusion. Most studies did not evaluate the breastmilk to maternal serum drug concentration ratio, but in those evaluating this, the highest ratio was 1:20 for infliximab. Relative infant dose, a metric comparing the infant with maternal drug dose (<10% is generally considered safe), was evaluated for certolizumab (<1%), rituximab (<1%), and natalizumab (maximum of 5.3%; cumulative effects of monthly dosing are anticipated). Importantly, a total of 368 infants were followed for ≥6 months after exposure to breastmilk of mothers treated with mAbs; none experienced reported developmental delay or serious infections.

Conclusions: The current data are reassuring for low mAb drug transfer to breastmilk, but further studies are needed, including of longer-term effects on infant immunity and childhood development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacokinetics*
  • Lactation*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Postpartum Period*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunologic Factors