Dose escalation study of bovine lactoferrin in preterm infants: getting the dose right

Biochem Cell Biol. 2021 Feb;99(1):7-13. doi: 10.1139/bcb-2020-0217. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Lactoferrin as a nutritional enteral supplement has emerged as a novel preventative therapy against serious infections in preterm infants, although neonatal studies have demonstrated variable results, in part due to the lack of pharmacokinetic data and differences in the products tested. We conducted a prospective, dose escalation (100, 200, and 300 mg·kg-1·day-1) safety study of bovine lactoferrin (Glanbia Nutritionals, USA) dissolved in sterile water (100 mg·mL-1) for 30 days in preterm infants with birth weight <1500 g. Safety related to adverse events (AEs), tolerability, and exposure-response of lactoferrin was assessed. We enrolled 31 patients [10, 10, and 11 patients, for the lactoferrin treatment groups (100, 200, and 300 mg·kg-1·day-1, respectively)] over a 10-month period. No AEs related to the study solution occurred, and lactoferrin was tolerated by each group. During lactoferrin supplementation, one bloodstream infection occurred in each group, but there were no incidences of urinary tract infections and no cases of necrotizing enterocolitis. Postnatal cytomegalovirus acquisition was detected in the group treated with 200 mg·kg-1·day-1 (n = 2). There were no adverse effects on hepatic, renal, or hematologic function. All of the patients survived to discharge. Bovine lactoferrin at doses up to 300 mg·kg-1·day-1 is safe in preterm infants. Future studies examining higher doses of lactoferrin, length of treatment, and potency of different products will aid in determining the optimal approach for the use of lactoferrin to prevent infections in preterm infants.

Keywords: infection prevention; innocuité; lactoferrin; lactoferrine; nourrissons prématurés; preterm infants; prévention des infections; safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Weight
  • Cattle
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Lactoferrin / administration & dosage*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Urinary Tract Infections / prevention & control


  • Lactoferrin