Lactoferrin, an ally in the fight against Covid-19. Italian study

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Lactoferrin is an ally to be considered in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. An Italian study demonstrates its usefulness by investigating its mechanisms of action. And he suggests its use, including for prevention.

Lactoferrin, the antivirus protein

Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein (i.e., a molecule comprising carbohydrate and protein chains) characteristic of breast milk. Protects against infection by preventing pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi) from entering respiratory and intestinal mucosal cells. Both of which are susceptible to possible attacks by the new coronavirus.

The antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of this ‘natural immunity protein’ appear to explain why the immune defenses of breastfed infants respond more rapidly to infections and produce antibodies. An evidence also confirmed in case of Covid-19 infection, with mild symptoms and rarely severe evolution.

Strong as a child

Employing lactoferrin in treating people positive for the new coronavirus is the insight of Elena Campione, professor of dermatology at Policlinico Tor Vergata (PTV). Moreover, the glycoprotein is also used againstherpes simplex and its obnoxious skin manifestations.

In April 2020, at the height of the pandemic, at the university polyclinic in the southeast quadrant of the capital city, Elena Campione initiated a clinical trial of a hundred patients who were virus-positive but asymptomatic or paucisymptomatic (with mild symptoms). Professors Luca Bianchi and Massimo Andreoni of the PTV are also dedicated to it.

An innovative version of lactoferrin

The study is being conducted by oral and intranasal administration to patients of a novel (easier to assimilate) liposomal formulation of lactoferrin. This clinical trial was the first approved on the use of lactoferrin in Covid-positive patients nationally and internationally, reports the Tor Vergata team.

The results of the test ‘demonstrated for the first time the efficacy of lactoferrin in promoting, without adverse effects, remission of clinical symptoms in symptomatic Covid-19-positive patients and swab negativization as early as 12 days after treatment. We also observed remarkable results from the blood tests, which will be published soon‘.

Further in vitro confirmation

In parallel with the clinical study, a working group coordinated by Piera Valenti, professor of Microbiology at La Sapienza University in Rome, verified the properties of the lactoferrin used.

The team also conducted in vitro tests on the antiviral action of lactoferrin, confirming how this protein inhibits SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19) infection by blocking the early stages of virus-cell interaction.

Preventing contagions with lactoferrin

The group of researchers from Tor Vergata and La Sapienza described the mechanism of action of lactoferrin in a study published in the Journal of Molecular Sciences. (1) And also recommends its adoption as a preventive measure.

The molecule lactoferrin is allowed in dietary supplements with a maximum daily dose of 200 mg, according to the Ministry of Health’s‘Other Nutrients and Other Substances with a Nutritional or Physiological Effect‘ list.

The evidence on the antivirus utility of lactoferrin

The antiviral efficacy of lactoferrin is thus synthesized by PTV:

– inhibits both directly and indirectly the various viruses that cause disease in humans,

– directly inhibits viral infection by binding to viral receptor sites and/or heparan sulfates of host cells thereby preventing the virus from infecting the cells,

– Increases the systemic immune response to viral invasion,

– in a 2011 in vitro study by Chinese researchers, showed a protective role from Sars-Cov by binding to heparanesulfate, which prevents virus entry.

Further studies have found that lactoferrin

– Inhibits herpes simplex type 1 and 2 infection,

– has potent antiviral effects against both human HIV and Cytomegalovirus (CMV) replication without showing any cytotoxicity. In people with HIV, moreover, a systemic lactoferrin deficiency is established.

To further explore the correlations between diet and the immune system, we refer to the first ebook – ‘People‘ – of the trilogy ‘Covid-19, the ABC‘s’.

Marta Strinati

Notes

(1) Campione E., Cosio T., Rosa L., Lanna C., Di Girolamo S., Gaziano R., Valenti P., Bianchi L. (2020). Lactoferrin as Protective Natural Barrier of Respiratory and Intestinal Mucosa against Coronavirus Infection and Inflammation. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 4903 https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/14/4903

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".