Lactoferrin is a natural protein that is present in breast milk and helps the newborn to develop the immune system. Well, it seems that this protein, which nowadays is sold in all chemist’s and herbalist’s shops, could also become an additional weapon against the novel coronavirus. The research has only just started but it seems to be very promising, as evidenced by a forthcoming article that summarizes the work of an Italian team of the Universities of Rome Tor Vergata and Sapienza (Campione et al, Pleiotropic effect of Lactoferrin in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection: randomized clinical trial, in vitro and in silico preliminary evidences, Aug 2020).
The study is, to date, the first research carried out in order to evaluate the efficacy of lactoferrin against the coronavirus both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro, in fact, lactoferrin has been shown to block the attack of the novel coronavirus against the cells. As for the in vivo study, the researchers recruited just over 30 people, positive for the Covid-19 virus, with few or no symptoms. Administration of lactoferrin, either orally or by nasal spray, reduced the time to clear the virus and, in patients with symptoms, accelerated recovery times. Not only that, the intake of lactoferrin has made it possible to reduce the levels of the cytokines Il-6 and D-Dimer, which are molecules secreted by cells of the immune system and considered indicators of the possible course of the novel coronavirus in the body. In particular, high levels of these molecules are generally related to a high risk of a poor prognosis.
After these first results, the researchers are very confident and plan to expand the population sample, including people with more important symptoms. It is still early to draw conclusions but it appears that lactoferrin may protect people's immune systems by providing an extra defense against the novel coronavirus.