Lactoferrin (Lf) is an iron-binding glycoprotein produced naturally in mammalian milk, including human milk and Bovine or cow’s milk. One of its main roles is to bind iron, essentially starving nasty bacteria and viruses, making them unable to proliferate and take hold inside the body, thus reducing the risk of infection and disease. However, Lactoferrin has also been shown in recent studies to promote the growth of selected probiotic or beneficial strains of bacteria. Research has revealed the growth promoting effects of Lactoferrin on probiotic strains of Bifidobacterium and lactobacilli, two important gram positive anaerobic bacterial strains that naturally colonise parts of the human intestine.
The increase in numbers and the diversification of species of intestinal microbiota may have an impact on several health related issues including:
- Strengthening the gut lining making it less permeable to bacteria, parasites and viruses therefore reducing diseases and infections
- Discouraging the colonization and overgrowth of normally harmless enteric pathogens such as, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli (pathogenic strains) and Shigella
- Enhancing the growth and maturation of cellular barrier components of the gut wall and gut nerve fibres
- Helping to balance the anti- and pro-inflammatory responses resulting in gut homeostasis, the balance between the host immunity and intestinal microbiota.
Probiotics or healthy gut bacteria have been shown to secrete protective substances, which may boost the bodies defence system and prevent nasty pathogens from taking hold. Disruption of a healthy balanced intestinal ecosystem of bacteria or ’biome’ is associated with a plethora of human diseases, including autoimmune and allergic diseases, colorectal cancer, metabolic diseases, and bacterial infections.
The excessive use of antibiotics to kill pathogenic bacteria and therefore reducing infections may be counterproductive and may contribute to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. Using naturally produced bactericidal and antimicrobial agents such as Lactoferrin to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria may enhance the medical way of the future.