Lactoferrin, Coronavirus Eliminator

Early clinical trial shows improved blood markers and viral clearance



An ingredient found in especially high amounts in six-hour bovine colostrum (BC) may offer protection against COVID-19, the infectious coronavirus discovered in 2019 in Wuhan, China, say researchers writing in the August 11, 2020 issue of bioRxiv.

Known for its treasure trove of immune factors including peptides and immunoglobulins, BC is also the major dietary source of lactoferrin, a type of protein with carbohydrates attached and also called a glycoprotein; it has shown promise against a variety of pathogens.

This antiviral compound in BC could play a potentially important role in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection, says a second team of scientists in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

Targeting Viral Shedders

The University of Rome investigators, writing in bioRxiv, performed a randomized interventional study assessing the role of oral and intranasal lactoferrin to treat mild-to-moderate and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients to prevent disease evolution. Mild-to-moderate disease was defined based on less severe clinical symptoms with no evidence of pneumonia and not requiring time in the intensive care unit. Such patients are among the highest viral shedders, the scientists wrote.

The primary endpoint was real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) negative conversion rate of SARS-COV-2 RNA. The negative conversion rates with the viruses’ RNA component indicates that the virus is not replicating.

The secondary endpoints were the identification of COVID-19 deranged blood parameters and therefore treatment target markers and rate of disease remission, defined as symptoms recovery and blood-parameters improvement. In addition, safety and tolerability of lactoferrin was assessed.

Eligible patients were over 20 years old, with a confirmed COVID-19 rRT-PCR at the naso-oropharingeal swab, and blood-oxygen saturation greater than 93 percent. Patients did not receive any other treatment against SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 in-patients were excluded.

Faster Viral Clearance

The investigators report, “Lactoferrin induced an early viral clearance and a fast clinical symptoms recovery in addition to a statistically significant reduction” of D-dimer, a protein fragment (small piece) made when a blood clot dissolves in the bloodstream; interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine that causes the disease’s inflammatory storm; and ferritin blood levels that, when elevated, indicate heart and vascular damage.

Hinders Protein Docking

The antiviral activity of lactoferrin related to its binding to SARS-CoV-2 and cells and interfering with virus-cell protein-protein docking methods. The virus contains an S-spike protein. The cells contain ACE2 receptors to which the S spike attaches. Lactoferrin worked by “hindering the spike S attachment to the human ACE2 receptor and consequently virus entering into the cells.”

Zinc Synergy

Another interesting observation is that zinc-saturated lactoferrin can apparently exert a more potent antiviral effect. In experiments with poliovirus, it was observed that only zinc-saturated lactoferrin, and not iron-saturated lactoferrin, inhibited viral infection when incubated with cells after viral attachment, and the inhibition directly correlated with the degree of zinc saturation.

Counteracts Coronavirus

“As there is currently neither an established treatment regimen for COVID-19 nor an established preventative for SARS-CoV-2 infection, one can contemplate the use of [lactoferring] both as a non-toxic health supplement to prevent the infection as well as an adjunct treatment for those who have developed COVID-19,” say the investigators in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Research.

“Its successful combined use to enhance conventional antiviral drug treatments in viral disease has been demonstrated against [hepatiti-C virus] as well as in a recent study against SARS-CoV-2, and its potential to reduce mortality due to cytokine-induced inflammation and respiratory failure in severe COVID-19 is also suggested by laboratory, animal and clinical studies. Furthermore, [latoferrin] possesses unique immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects that may be especially relevant to the pathophysiology of severe COVID-19 cases.

“Lactoferrin could counteract the coronavirus infection and inflammation, acting either as natural barrier of both respiratory and intestinal mucosa or reverting the iron disorders related to the viral colonization.” Additional clinical trials have begun at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and at the University of Cairo. The current treatment approaches to COVID-19 have so far proved to be inadequate, and a potent antiviral drug or effective vaccine are yet to be discovered and eagerly awaited.

The immediate priority is to harness innate immunity in order to accelerate early antiviral immune responses. This is an early study assessing the use of lactoferrin in the management of COVID-19 infection.

Lactoferrin-Rich Food

Because BC supplies other immune factors such as regulatory peptides and immunoglobulins involved with protection from coronaviruses its use during the pandemic is fundamental to health. As the mother cow's milk transitions from colostrum to regular milk, the amount of lactoferrin decreases. Six-hour colostrum, harvested only from leftover supplies after the calf has been fully fed, is especially rich in lactoferrin.

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