Effect of lactoferrin on enteric pathogens

Biochimie. 2009 Jan;91(1):30-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2008.04.006. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Much has been learned in recent years about the mechanisms by which breastfeeding improves child health and survival. However, there has been little progress in using these insights to improve pediatric care. Factors that are important for protecting the breast fed infant might be expected to decrease the adverse effects of weaning on diarrhea, growth, and development. Lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein with multiple physiological functions (anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory), is one of the most important proteins present in mammalian milk. Protection against gastroenteritis is the most likely biologically relevant activity of lactoferrin. Multiple in vitro and animal studies have shown a protective effect of lactoferrin on infections with enteric microorganisms, including rotavirus, Giardia, Shigella, Salmonella and the diarrheagenic Escherichia coli. Lactoferrin has two major effects on enteric pathogens: it inhibits growth and it impairs function of surface expressed virulence factors thereby decreasing their ability to adhere or to invade mammalian cells. Thus, lactoferrin may protect infants from gastrointestinal infection by preventing the attachment by enteropathogens in the gut. Recently several clinical trials in children have started to address this issue. Whether lactoferrin can prevent a significant portion of diarrheal disease remains to be determined.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diarrhea, Infantile / drug therapy
  • Enterobacteriaceae / drug effects
  • Enterovirus / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / drug therapy
  • Lactoferrin / therapeutic use*


  • Lactoferrin