The antiviral properties of human milk: A multitude of defence tools from mother nature

Daniela Morniroli, Alessandra Consales, Beatrice Letizia Crippa, Giulia Vizzari, Federica Ceroni, Jacopo Cerasani, Lorenzo Colombo, Fabio Mosca, Maria Lorella Giannì

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The anti-infective properties of breast milk have been known for decades. In recent years, an increasing number of papers have described the variety of bioactive compounds that are present in breast milk with varying degrees of antiviral activity. However, to date, the totality of the properties of these compounds is not fully understood and, above all, their synergistic interaction is not yet known. The purpose of this review is to describe the current knowledge about the antiviral compounds in breast milk, both with specific and non-specific action against pathogens. Due to the current pandemic situation from SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus-2), research has focused on a multitude of potential antiviral substances, taking breast milk as a biological model of reference. Future research is needed to expand the knowledge of these compounds, which will hopefully assist in the development of therapies applicable even at later ages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number694
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Docosa-hexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Human milk
  • Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO)
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Lactoferrin
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA)
  • Mucins
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tenascin-C
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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