In this article we will talk about lactoferrin (LF), a nutritional factor with various properties, including also of immune defense, particularly abundant in breast milk - and more precisely in the colostrum (first milk).
Also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, towards which it is difficult to find a safe and effective cure, these characteristics are placing lactoferrin at the center of numerous scientific studies and insights.
In fact, as never before, we are looking for useful products to strengthen the immune system; that are effective but also safe for the consumer.
This is why in the following lines we will try to understand better if theintegration with post-weaning lactoferrin - including adulthood - may or may not constitute a useful system to enhance our natural defenses against pathogens.
What is lactoferrin?
Lactoferrin is a protein multifunctional from the same family as transferrin (an iron transport protein abundant in the human body).
Also known as lactotransferrin (LTF), it is a globular glycoprotein with a molecular mass of about 80 kDa, widely represented in various fluids human secretors such as milk, saliva, tears and various nasal secretions.
Lactoferrin is contained in the secondary granules of neutrophil granulocytes (white blood cells) and is also secreted by some acinar cells of the exocrine pancreas.
The synthetic one can be obtained by purification of milk or produced in a recombinant way. Human colostrum has the concentration highest, followed by the milk produced later, then by cow's milk (150 mg / L).
Lactoferrin is, to all intents and purposes, one of the components of immune system. It has effects antimicrobials (bactericidal, fungicidal) and is part of the innate defenses - mainly at the level of the mucous membranes (the most sensitive to viral aggression).
Conceived by nature as defence antibacterial for newborns of the human species, lactoferrin plays several biological functions interacting also with DNA and RNA, polysaccharides and heparin.
Functions and Biological Role
What is lactoferrin used for?
The function main of lactoferrin is to tie is to carry the ions iron in the bloodstream.
Nevertheless, lactoferrin plays a key role in the defence of the organism from various pathogens. Part of the immune system innate, this molecule is known for its properties:
Antibacterial activity of lactoferrin
The main role of lactoferrin is, as we have said, to sequester free iron. By doing so it becomes possible to remove the essential substrate necessary for growth bacterial.
The antibacterial action of lactoferrin can also be explained by the presence of specific ones receptors (lipopolysaccharides) on the cell surface of microorganisms. Lactoferrin binds to it thanks to its peptide specific lactoferricin, causing its already oxidized iron to oxidize the target bacteria in turn, forming peroxides that affect the permeability of the membrane causing it to rupture (cell lysis).
Furthermore, once bound, lactoferrin not only destroys the membrane, but penetrates even inside the cell.
Here's why, although lactoferrin also boasts others antibacterial mechanisms not related to iron - such as stimulation of the phagocytosis - the interaction with the external bacterial membrane described above is the predominant and most studied one.
It is shown that lactoferrin can prevent the attachment of H. pylori in the stomach, reducing digestive system disorders.
Note: bovine has greater activity against H. pylori than human lactoferrin.
Antiviral activity of lactoferrin
Lactoferrin in sufficient "strength" acts against a wide range of virus (humans and animals) based on DNA and RNA genomes, such as: herpes simplex 1 and 2, cytomegalovirus, HIV, HCV, hantavirus, rotavirus, poliovirus type 1, human respiratory syncytial virus, virus of murine leukemia and viruses Mayaro.
The most studied mechanism of activity antiviral attributable to lactoferrin is its ability to diversion viruses from target cells. Many viruses tend to bind to the lipoproteins of cell membranes and thus to penetrate inside. Lactoferrin binds to the same lipoproteinsrejecting so do the viral particles. L'apolactoferrin iron-free it is more efficient in this function than ololactoferrin; lactoferricin, on the other hand, which is responsible for the antimicrobial properties (on bacteria) of lactoferrin, shows almost no antiviral activity.
In addition to interacting with the cell membrane as specified above, lactoferrin also binds directly to viral particles, as in the case of hepatitis viruses. This mechanism is also confirmed against rotaviruses, which act on different types of cells.
Lactoferrin suppresses also there replication of the virus after its penetration into the cell. Such an indirect antiviral effect is achieved by affecting natural killer cells, granulocytes and macrophages - cells that perform a crucial role in the early stages of viral infections, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Antifungal activity of lactoferrin
Lactoferrin and lactoferricin inhibit in vitro growth of Trichophyton mentagrophytes, responsible for various skin diseases such as ringworm.
Lactoferrin also acts against Candida albicans, a diploid fungus (a form of yeast) that causes infections oral is genitals opportunistic.
Due to the long use of fluconazole, numerous strains of candid resistant to this drug. However, a combination of the drug with lactoferrin can eradicate resistant strains of albicans and not only (C. glabrata, C. krusei, C. parapsilosis and C. tropicalis). To report the antifungal activity of lactoferricin exceeds that of lactoferrin.
Contrary to the previous ones, very little is known about the mechanism of the antifungal action. Lactoferrin would appear bind to membrane albicans plasma concentration inducing an apoptotic-like process (cell death).
Anti-cancerous activity of lactoferrin
The activity antitumor bovine lactoferrin (bLF) has been demonstrated in experimental lung, bladder, tongue, colon and liver carcinogenesis in rats - Tsuda H, Sekine K, Fujita K, Ligo M (2002). "Cancer prevention by bovine lactoferrin and underlying mechanisms – a review of experimental and clinical studies". Biochemistry and Cell Biology. 80 (1): 131-6.
Furthermore, in another experiment conducted on hamsters, bovine lactoferrin has reduced of the 50% the incidence of oral cancer. Currently, bLF is used as an ingredient in yogurt, chewing gum, infant formula and cosmetics - Chandra Mohan KV, Kumaraguruparan R, Prathiba D, Nagini S (September 2006). "Modulation of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes and redox status during chemoprevention of hamster buccal carcinogenesis by bovine lactoferrin". Nutrition. 22 (9): 940-6.
Where is it
Foods rich in lactoferrin
As anticipated, there are various types of lactoferrin.
Humans and animals do not synthesize identical molecules, just as their effects against pathogens are slightly different.
Excluding human colostrum of course (7 g / liter), the only relevant sources of lactoferrin are raw cow's milk or, at most, dealt with pasteurization latest generation technology - a process that however significantly impoverishes its contribution.
Since it is inadvisable to consume raw milk due to the risk of bacterial contamination, and since the industrial methods are much more advanced than those at home, we can say with certainty that commercial pasteurized milk is the most rich absolute lactoferrin.
Otherwise it is necessary to rely on food supplements, a safe source of biologically active lactoferrin.
Having said that, nowadays, why should we take lactoferrin? Can it be useful against COVID-19?
Supplement Against Covid-19
Lactoferrin against COVID-19: does it work?
The 2019 coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is rapidly advancing around the world despite drastic measures to protect public and personal health.
For this, various antivirals and antivirals have been proposed as potentially useful against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). lactoferrin food supplements, but few were clinically relevant.
There lactoferrin, which as we have seen has shown efficacy against many other viruses - including the SARS-CoV-2 - could be a supplement natural, non-toxic and available for Street oral.
It also has effects immunomodulators is anti-inflammatory which could be particularly relevant in the pathophysiology of severe cases of COVID-19.
Therefore some scientists are trying to verify its real usefulness for this purpose price quotation is curative towards COVID-19 infection.
We hope that further research and developments will soon be able to define guidelines on the use of lactoferrin in the fight against the new coronavirus.