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Lactoferrin Supplements Could Aid Recovery From COVID-19: Read About The Protein Found In Human And Cow Milk

The search for an effective treatment for COVID-19, apart from the vaccines are still ongoing. In a recently published study, the findings suggest the possibility of a supplement, derived from cow and human milk, that could be used for COVID treatment.

The study, headed by Dr Hamid Merchant from the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Huddersfield has made evident that the administration of lactoferrin, which has proven to be a key ingredient for our natural defence systems against invading viruses, shows promising efficacy in reducing the risk of RTIs and also has the potential to be used adjunct to COVID-19 [1].

Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are infections of parts of the body involved in breathing, such as the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. Most RTIs get better without treatment [2].

What Is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is a protein naturally found in breastmilk, for example in cow milk and human milk, and is also found in fluids in the eye, nose, respiratory tract, intestine etc. The benefits are well documented however, it wasn't known if taking the molecule as a supplement would have the same beneficial value until the study was carried out [3].

Lactoferrin For COVID-19: What Does The Study Say?

The antiviral properties of lactoferrin make it a great natural supplement that could also be used as an adjunct for COVID-19 and for various other RTIs according to a team of researchers led by the University of Huddersfield [4].

The findings of the study are now published in an official publication of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) [5]. The study has made evident that the administration of Lactoferrin shows promising efficacy in reducing the risk of RTIs, which is proven to be a key ingredient for our natural defence systems against invading viruses.

"This is a very promising molecule which can be adopted as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 and could be part of a daily routine for people to take, along with vitamin C, D and Zinc supplements to keep our immune system healthy. Particularly now winter is almost upon us we need this extra protection a lot more now than during the summer," said the researchers [6].

Dr Merchant, the head researcher believes these are still preliminary findings and warrant further evidence from a large, well-designed randomised controlled trial.

"Given the high clinical importance of respiratory tract infections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we aimed to systematically examine the interventional Randomised Clinical Trials on the efficacy of bovine lactoferrin in preventing the occurrence of RTIs," said Dr Syed Hasan, another of the University's researchers involved in the study.

"The administration of Lactoferrin showed promising efficacy in reducing the risk of RTIs and may also have a beneficial role in managing symptoms and recovery of patients suffering from RTIs," he said.

"Current evidence also favours lactoferrin fortification of infant formula - it won't be long until parents should be able to find lactoferrin fortified infant formulas readily available on the shelves," Dr Merchant added.

Supplements Dissolved Slowly In The Mouth Tend To Be Superior

Lactoferrin is prepared by specialised dairy companies who make milk, infant formulas or milk-based products that isolate this biomolecule from the milk and various other companies then procure it to sell as a supplement [7].

However, it was argued that lots of low-cost lactoferrin supplements being sold online are not of desired quality. The natural form of lactoferrin isolated from the milk by a specialised filtration process has superior biological properties to most lactoferrin products that are chemically processed and treated.

Moreover, supplements available in the form of orodispersible tablets (dissolved slowly in the mouth) are superior to commonly available lactoferrin products that are meant to be swallowed with water. The buccal tablets (buccal tablets stick gently to the inside of your mouth and release hydrocortisone as they dissolve) not only increase the mucosal concentration (mucous concentration) of Lactoferrin but also help with its absorption and avoid its deterioration by the stomach acid [8].

"This is a very promising molecule which can be adopted as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 and could be part of a daily routine for people to take, along with vitamin C, D and Zinc supplements to keep our immune system healthy. Particularly now winter is almost upon us we need this extra protection a lot more now than during the summer," concluded Dr Merchant.

What Are The Other Uses Of Lactoferrin?

Most commonly, lactoferrin is used to treat iron deficiency in pregnant women and to prevent blood infection (septicaemia) in premature infants. Also, it has been used to treat a variety of other conditions such as acne, Hepatitis C, osteoporosis, stimulating the immune system, preventing age-related damage to the body, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these claims. Lactoferrin is used in industrial agriculture in order to kill bacteria in meat processing [9].

What Are The Side Effects Of Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin can cause diarrhoea.

In very high doses, it can cause the following [10]:

  • Skin rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Constipation

On A Final Note...

Lactoferrin supplements are too new to recommend them for any condition yet, due to limited research. First, talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits and whether it is right for you.

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