Milk antibody response after 3rd dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infection and implications for infant protection

medRxiv. 2022 Dec 14:2022.12.12.22283367. doi: 10.1101/2022.12.12.22283367. Preprint


Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies have been found in human-milk after COVID-19 infection and vaccination. However, little is known about their persistence in milk after booster vaccination and breakthrough infection. In this study, human-milk, saliva and blood samples were collected from 33 lactating individuals before and after mRNA-based vaccination and COVID-19 breakthrough infections. Antibody levels were measured using ELISA and symptoms were assessed using questionnaires. Evaluation of maternal and infant symptomatology revealed that infected mothers reported more symptoms than vaccinated mothers. We found that after vaccination, human-milk anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies persisted for up to 8 months. In addition, distinct patterns of human milk IgA and IgG production we observed after breakthrough infection compared to 3-dose vaccination series alone, indicating a differential central and mucosal immune profiles in hybrid compared with vaccine-induced immunity. To investigate passively-derived milk antibody protection in infants, we examined the persistence of these antibodies in infant saliva after breastfeeding. We found that IgA was more abundant in infant saliva compared to IgG and persist in infant saliva longer after feeding. Our results delineate the differences in milk antibody response to vaccination as compared to breakthrough infection and emphasize the importance of improving the secretion of IgA antibodies to human milk after vaccination to improve the protection of breastfeeding infants.

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