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J Pharm Pharmacol. 2001 Oct;53(10):1303-10.

Human lactoferrin: a novel therapeutic with broad spectrum potential.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Program in Medical Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405, USA.


Lactoferrin (Lf), a natural defence iron-binding protein, has been found to possess antibacterial, antimycotic, antiviral, antineoplastic and anti-inflammatory activity. The protein is present in exocrine secretions that are commonly exposed to normal flora: milk, tears, nasal exudate, saliva, bronchial mucus, gastrointestinal fluids, cervico-vaginal mucus and seminal fluid. Additionally, Lf is a major constituent of the secondary specific granules of circulating polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs). The apoprotein is released on degranulation of the PMNs in septic areas. A principal function of Lf is that of scavenging free iron in fluids and inflamed areas so as to suppress free radical-mediated damage and decrease the availability of the metal to invading microbial and neoplastic cells. Mechanisms of action of Lf in addition to iron deprivation are also described. Administration of exogenous human or bovine Lf to hosts with various infected or inflamed sites has resulted in some prophylactic or therapeutic effects. However, an adverse response to the protein might occur if it were to stimulate antibody production or if it were to provide iron to the invading pathogen. The recombinant form of human Lf has become available and development of the product for use in a wide range of medical conditions can now be anticipated.

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