Antiviral activity of lactoferrin towards naked viruses

Biometals. 2004 Jun;17(3):295-9. doi: 10.1023/b:biom.0000027708.27142.bc.


It is well known that lactoferrin (Lf) is a potent inhibitor towards several enveloped and naked viruses, such as rotavirus, enterovirus and adenovirus. Lf is resistant to tryptic digestion and breast-fed infants excrete high levels of faecal Lf, so that its effect on viruses replicating in the gastrointestinal tract is of great interest. In this report, we analysed the mechanism of the antiviral action of this protein in three viral models which, despite representing different genoma and replication strategies, share the ability to infect the gut. Concerning the mechanism of action against rotavirus, Lf from bovine milk (BLf) possesses a dual role, preventing virus attachment to intestinal cells by binding to viral particles, and inhibiting a post adsorption step. The BLf effect towards poliovirus is due to the interference with an early infection step but, when the BLf molecule is saturated with Zn+2 ions, it is also capable of inhibiting viral replication after the viral adsorption phase. The anti-adenovirus action of BLf takes place on virus attachment to cell membranes through competition for common glycosaminoglycan receptors and a specific interaction with viral structural polypeptides. Taken together, these findings provide further evidence that Lf is an excellent candidate in the search of natural agents against viral enteric diseases, as it mainly acts by hindering adsorption and internalisation into cells through specific binding to cell receptors and/or viral particles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism*
  • Enterovirus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactoferrin / metabolism*
  • Rotavirus / metabolism


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Lactoferrin