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Lactoferrin for Your Immune System: Does it Work?

Updated 1/23/2021

Medically reviewed by Dr. Atmika Paudel, PhD - Written by Dan Jackowiak Nc, HHP and Dr. Vibhuti Rana, PhD

Dr. Atmika Paudel, PhD says... The information presented in the article below about lactoferrin effects on yeasts, bacteria, viruses, immune function and safety issues is medically correct.


Lactoferrin is a protein substance that comes from colostrum in mothers milk. It is also a cytokine and they are chemical messengers responsible for human immune response that protect us from tumors, cancers, other infections and foreign pathogens. Low levels lead to immune system suppression and high levels can lead to an over active immune system.

As the name suggests, lactoferrin also has the ability to bind iron which is used by many foreign pathogens, cancers, and yeasts and other fungi for growth and reproduction.


Lactoferrin Helps With Candida Yeasts

Dr. Suzanne Noble with UCSF School of Medicine found that candida also uses the iron molecule as a means of growth and development of its biofilm. This iron binding effect of lactoferrin helps starve the yeast, bad bacteria or tumor so it eventually dies without harming good bacteria that don't use iron for survival.(Source)

Candida albicans was found to be inhibited because of its unique ability to stimulate phagocytes that eat candida yeast and other foreign organisms. It also was found to have an effect on the cell membranes and mitochondria of the candida cell

Jarrow-Lactoferrin

In 2004, Infectious Disease Microbiologist Antonella Lupetti with seven other colleagues from the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that lactoferrin works synergistically with fluconazole against fluconazole-sensitive C. albicans strains as well as C. glabrata, C. krusei, C. parapsilosis, and C. tropicalis.The study was published in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Journal under the American Society for Microbiology.(Source)

Lactoferrin contains certain molecules that are toxic to bad bacteria, yeast, and molds of all types. It also inhibits the growth of HIV and other viruses such as herpes. It has the ability to kill and resolve H. pylori infections that cause stomach ulcers.

Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella pneumoniae all of which are capable of causing serious illness, are inhibited by lactoferrin.


Dr. Vibhuti Rana, PhD says...

The section and the studies mentioned above regarding the anti fungal role of lactoferrin are medically relevant. Having diverse functions, the lactoferrin glycoprotein has a number of activities against different types of fungi and yeasts. Lactoferrin derived bio active peptides also exhibit strong antifungal activity. The most commonly studied three peptides are lactoferricin, lactoferrampin, and LF (1-11) (1). In 1993, Nikawa et al showed that lactoferrin had a fungicidal effect on Candida albicans and Candida krusei. They use techniques like supernatant protein assays and scanning electron microscopy to find surface modifications on the Candida membranes, which were sensitive to the Apo, that is, the iron free form of lactoferrin (2).

In 2019, a study was published in BMC Microbiology, where bovine lactoferrin, derived from Lactobacillus casei exhibited antifungal activity against the fluconazole resistant strains of Candida albicans in the murine vulvovaginal candidiasis models (3). These, along with many other studies, show the antifungal role of lactoferrin alone or in conjunction with antifungal drugs.

  1. Fernandes KE, Carter DA. The Antifungal Activity of Lactoferrin and Its Derived Peptides: Mechanisms of Action and Synergy with Drugs against Fungal Pathogens. Front Microbiol. 2017;8:2. Published 2017 Jan 18. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241296/#
  2. Nikawa H, Samaranayake LP, Tenovuo J, Pang KM, Hamada T. The fungicidal effect of human lactoferrin on Candida albicans and Candida krusei. Arch Oral Biol. 1993 Dec;38(12):1057-63. doi: 10.1016/0003-9969(93)90167-k. PMID: 8141667. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8141667/#
  3. Liao, H., Liu, S., Wang, H. et al. Enhanced antifungal activity of bovine lactoferrin-producing probiotic Lactobacillus casei in the murine model of vulvovaginal candidiasis. BMC Microbiol19, 7 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-018-1370-x.

Lactoferrin is Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Viral

Studies done in Japan on mice revealed a marked reduction in bad bacteria and especially the pathogenic bacteria known as Clostridium. The tests also revealed that it limited the bad bacteria that were able to pass thru the intestinal wall and enter the blood stream there bye preventing serious illness. The positive effects on Clostridium difficule, a bacteria infection most commonly associated with antibiotic use, where further verified by Molecular Biologist C. H. Chilton from Leeds Institute for Molecular Medicine, published in the Journal Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in 2016. (Source)

Other experiments have revealed a inhibitory effect against HIV and Herpes Simplex 1.

Because an individual with normal levels of lactoferrin secretes the substance in other body fluids. It has been found to prevent dental carries and eye diseases.

A 1999 study in Japan showed lactoferrin inhibits hepatitis C virus viremia in patients with chronic hepatitis C.(Source) However, a study in 2006 showed that it didn't have any viral effect in Hepatitis C patients.(Source)


Lactoferrin Stimulates Immune Function

Not only does it stimulate phagocyte activity but also neutrophils, which are the primary t-cell responsible for the defense of the body from candida and other fungi. Macrophage function is also boosted along with lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are another type of immune cell that secrete antibodies and directly attack foreign pathogens. One type of lymphocyte is known as a Natural Killer cell, or NK cell for short, and NK cells can kill Candida yeast in 6/100ths of a second. When an NK cell acquires a target and attacks it, the target always dies without fail.

Other studies in Japan on mice given a highly metastatic type of cancer, it significantly slowed the growth and spread of the cancer. There have been many theories about why it works for cancer, from its iron binding ability, or its ability to bind to receptor sites on the cell.  However, the increased lymphocyte activity is also responsible for cancer cell death.

There has also been evidence that it suppresses blood vessel formation which cuts of the cancers food supply. Whether all these things are happening or not, it does not take away from its proven effectiveness.

There have been cases of some remarkable cases of cancer remission in the terminally ill people. Once such woman in New York with lung cancer had a startling turn around within weeks, gaining 14 pounds and achieving increased muscle strength.


Dr. Vibhuti Rana, PhD says...

Lactoferrin is found mainly in body fluids, such as milk, saliva, and semen,and has also been seen in specific neutrophil granules of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (1). Its presence in saliva is also used as a biomarker for neurological (neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism and Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease) (2, 3). It has also been found in the gingival retential fluid and implicated in periodontal diseases (4).

Interestingly, due to its significant immunomodulatory and protective roles, liposomal bovine lactoferrin solution (supplemented with zinc) treatment was found to facilitate fast recovery in COVID-19 affected individuals and their primary contacts. This study was published in 2020 in the International Journal of Research In Health Sciences (5).

Therefore, it is quite evident from the literature that lactoferrin plays a preventive, therapeutic role with regard to its bactericidal, antimycotic, antiviral, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, cell-growth modulatory, and binding activities. Moreover, it also neutralizes some bioactive compounds, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and glycosaminoglycans (1). Its protective role has also been discussed against Streptococcus by alteration of host immune response and protecting the host from a number of serious illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis, endocarditis, periodontitis, skin and soft tissue infections, premature birth, and neonatal sepsis (6).

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1631069114001711
  2. Farah R, Haraty H, Salame Z, Fares Y, Ojcius DM, Said Sadier N. Salivary biomarkers for the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological diseases. Biomed J. 2018 Apr;41(2):63-87. doi: 10.1016/j.bj.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 May 10. PMID: 29866603; PMCID: PMC6138769. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29866603/
  3. https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/alz.12107
  4. Koshi R, Kotani K, Ohtsu M, Yoshinuma N, Sugano N. Application of Lactoferrin and α1-Antitrypsin in Gingival Retention Fluid to Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease. Dis Markers. 2018 Nov 7;2018:4308291. doi: 10.1155/2018/4308291. PMID: 30524520; PMCID: PMC6247577. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30524520/
  5. https://ijrhs.org/sites/default/files/IntJResHealthSci-8-1-8.pdf
  6. ACS Infect. Dis.2020, 6, 7, 1615–1623, Publication Date:April 24, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1021/acsinfecdis.0c00050.

Is Lactoferrin Safe to Take?

In very high doses, lactoferrin can cause skin rashes, loss of appetite, fatigue, chills, and constipation.

It is perfectly safe when consumed in foods.

Pregnant women should avoid lactoferrin supplements until more is known.


Lactoferrin in Review

In my personal opinion, lactoferrin is far superior to colostrum and most other immune system stimulating substances, except for maybe Beta-Glucans.

As good as it is though, is not an end all by itself and other beneficial products for Candida yeast should be taken with it. One of those that would be most effective and not allow the Candida yeast to build any resistance is Biofase with Profase. These three products would make for a very potent and safe treatment for almost any yeast infection.


Medical Review by Dr. Atmika Paudel, PhD

The facts mentioned in the article above are correct, and the article provides the results of several scientific experiments, however, the references from which the results were discussed have not been cited in all the cases. I would recommend the writer to include the citations so that the article will be more convincing and people who want to take in depth look at those literatures will be satisfied. (Done)

It has been mentioned in a review article published in Annual Review of Nutrition in 1995 that the content of lactoferrin greatly varies among the milks from different species, for instance, lactoferrin is present in high concentration in human milk while low concentration is found in cow’s milk. (1)

The same review paper mentions the logics and hypotheses as how and why lactoferrin has antimicrobial property. Role of lactoferrin as a growth factor is also discussed in the paper.

As mentioned in the article above, lactoferrin, as an iron binding protein, can prevent multiplication of microorganisms, and has been implicated in the treatment of candidiasis, cancer, herpes, HIV, which have been reviewed in another review paper published in The Indian Journal of Pediatrics (2) , which discusses about the components and roles of colostrum, and lactoferrin is one of the components found in colostrum.

1. Lactoferrin: Molecular Structure and Biological Function. B. Lönnerdal and S. Iyer Annual Review of Nutrition 1995 15:1, 93-110
2. Role of colostrum in gastrointestinal infections. Rawal, P., Gupta, V. & Thapa, B.R. Indian J Pediatr (2008) 75: 917.


Very good Lactoferrin products can be found here.

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