Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein that can be found in human colostrum, human milk, and cow’s milk, and is known to modulate immune function with antimicrobial activity.1,2 It can be isolated and purified from milk, especially from the whey fraction.3 Due to its iron content, it is known as red protein.3 The mechanisms of action of lactoferrin include the inhibition of growth or killing of pathogenic microorganisms (antimicrobial activity) and the promotion of the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms (prebiotic activity).


Major Health Benefits

Lactoferrin has antibacterial properties because of its ability to remove iron required for bacterial growth and to breakdown bacterial cell membranes by forming peroxide.4,5 Lactoferrin also has demonstrated antiviral activity by directly binding viruses, thus suppressing virus replication.6-8 In clinical studies, lactoferrin has been shown to modulate the immune function and prevent infection in young children.2,9,10 For example, Lactoferrin ingestion at the dose of 200 mg/kg body weight per day reduced sepsis incidence in premature infants born with a birth weight under 2.5 kg2.

Clinical studies have shown that oral administration of bovine lactoferrin improved the vaginal microbiota composition by increasing the beneficial bacteria and decreasing the pathogen bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis, including Gardnerella vaginalis11,12. Lactoferrin was shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria L. acidophilus CH-213 and B. longum14.


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  2. Ochoa TJ, Zegarra J, Cam L, Llanos R, Pezo A, Cruz K, Zea-Vera A, Cárcamo C,Campos M, Bellomo S; NEOLACTO Research Group. Randomized controlled trial oflactoferrin for prevention of sepsis in peruvian neonates less than 2500 g. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2015 Jun;34(6):571-6. PubMed PMID: 25973934
  3. Groves ML (1960). “The Isolation of a Red Protein from Milk”. Journal of the American Chemical Society 82 (13): pp. 3345-50. (PDF)
  4. Farnaud S, Evans RW. Lactoferrin–a multifunctional protein with antimicrobial properties. Mol Immunol. 2003 Nov;40(7):395-405. PMID: 14568385.
  5. Adlerova L, Bartoskova A, Faldyna M.“Lactoferrin: a review”. VeterinarniMedicina53 (9): 457-468. 2008
  6. Wakabayashi H, Oda H, Yamauchi K, Abe F. Lactoferrin for prevention of common viral infections. J Infect Chemother. 2014 Nov;20(11):666-71. PMID: 25182867.
  7. van der Strate BW, Beljaars L, Molema G, Harmsen MC, Meijer DK. Antiviral activities of lactoferrin. Antiviral Res. 2001 Dec;52(3):225-39. PMID: 11675140.
  8. Arnold D, Di Biase AM, Marchetti M, et al.. Antiadenovirus activity of milk proteins: lactoferrin prevents viral infection. Antiviral Res. 2002 Feb;53(2):153-8. PMID: 11750941.
  9. Turin CG, Zea-Vera A, Pezo A, Cruz K, et al. Lactoferrin for prevention of neonatal sepsis. Biometals. 2014 Oct;27(5):1007-16. PMID: 24935001
  10. Ochoa TJ, Pezo A, Cruz K, Chea-Woo E, Cleary TG. Clinical studies of lactoferrin in children. Biochem Cell Biol. 2012 Jun;90(3):457-67. PMID: 22380791.
  11. Otsuki K, Imai N. Effects of lactoferrin in 6 patients with refractory bacterial vaginosis. Biochem Cell Biol. 2017 Feb;95(1):31-33.
  12. Pino A, Giunta G, Randazzo CL, Caruso S, Caggia C, Cianci A. Bacterial biota of women with bacterial vaginosis treated with lactoferrin: an open, prospective randomized trial. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2017 Jan 1;28(1):1357417.
  13. Kim WS, Ohashi M, Tanaka T, Kumura H, Kim GY, Kwon IK, Goh JS, Shimazaki K. Growth-promoting effects of lactoferrin on L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp. Biometals. 2004 Jun;17(3):279-83.
  14. Rahman MM, Kim WS, Ito T, Kumura H, Shimazaki K. Growth promotion and cell binding ability of bovine lactoferrin to Bifidobacterium longum. Anaerobe. 2009 Aug;15(4):133-7.