Lactoferrin enhanced efficacy of the BCG vaccine to generate host protective responses against challenge with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Vaccine. 2007 Sep 17;25(37-38):6730-43. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.07.005. Epub 2007 Jul 27.


Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), is a disease with world wide consequences, affecting nearly a third of the world's population. The established vaccine for TB, an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis Calmette Guerin (BCG), has existed since 1921. Lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein found in mucosal secretions and granules of neutrophils was hypothesized to be an ideal adjuvant to enhance the efficacy of the BCG vaccine, specifically because of previous reports of lactoferrin enhancement of IL-12 production from macrophages infected with BCG. Different vaccination protocols were investigated for generation of host protective responses against MTB infection using lactoferrin admixed to the BCG vaccine. Resulting effects demonstrate that BCG/lactoferrin increased host protection against MTB infection by decreasing organ bacterial load and reducing lung histopathology; significant reduction in tissue CFUs and pathology were observed post-challenge compared to those seen with BCG alone. Addition of lactoferrin to the vaccine led to reduced pathological damage upon subsequent infection with virulent MTB, with positive results demonstrated when admixed in oil-based vehicle (incomplete Freund's adjuvant, IFA) or when given with BCG in saline. The observed post-challenge results paralleled increasing production of IFN-gamma and IL-6, but only limited changes to proinflammatory mediators TNF-alpha or IL-1beta from BCG-stimulated splenocytes. Overall, these studies indicate that lactoferrin is a useful and effective adjuvant to improve efficacy of the BCG vaccine, with potential to reduce related tissue damage and pulmonary histopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology*
  • Dosage Forms
  • Female
  • Immunization, Secondary
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Lactoferrin / immunology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity*
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / microbiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics


  • Antigens
  • BCG Vaccine
  • Dosage Forms
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Lactoferrin