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The global pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection confers great threat to the public health. Human breastmilk is an extremely complex with nutritional composition to nourish infants and protect them from different kinds of infection diseases and also SARS-CoV-2 infection. Previous studies have found that breastmilk exhibited potent antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, it is still unknown which component(s) in the breastmilk is responsible for its antiviral activity. Here, we identified Lactoferrin (LF), MUC1 and α-Lactalbumin (α-LA) from human breastmilk by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and in vitro confirmation that inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection and analyzed their antiviral activity using the SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus system and transcription and replication-competent SARS-CoV-2 virus-like-particles (trVLP) in the Huh7.5, Vero E6 and Caco-2-N cell lines. Additionally, we found that LF and MUC1 could inhibit viral attachment, entry and post-entry replication, while α-LA just inhibit viral attachment and entry. Importantly, LF, MUC1 and α-LA possess potent antiviral activities towards not only wild-type but also variants such as B.1.1.7 (alpha), B.1.351 (beta), P.1 (gamma) and B.1.617.1 (kappa). Moreover, LF from other species (e.g., bovine and goat) is still capable of blocking viral attachment to cellular heparan sulfate. Taken together, our study provided the first line of evidence that human breastmilk components (LF, MUC1 and α-LA) are promising therapeutic candidates warranting further development or treatingVID-19 given their exceedingly safety levels.

Competing Interest Statement

K.X., T.L., H.Z. and L.X. have filed a patent application on the use of MUC1 and α-lactalbumin for anti-coronavirus including SARS-CoV-2 treatment. Q.D. and X.J. have filed a patent application on the use of the SARS-CoV-2 transcomplementation system and its use for anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug screening.

Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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