Apolactoferrin, Bovine Lactoferrin, Human Lactoferrin, Lactoferrina, Lactoferrine, Lactoferrine Bovine, Lactoferrine Humaine, Lactoferrine Humaine Recombinante, Lactoferrines, Lactoferrins, Recombinant Human Lactoferrin.


Overview Information

Lactoferrin is a protein found in cow milk and human milk. Colostrum, the first milk produced after a baby is born, contains about seven times more lactoferrin than is found in milk produced later on. Lactoferrin is also found in fluids in the eye, nose, respiratory tract, intestine, and elsewhere. People use lactoferrin as medicine.

Some people worry about getting "mad cow disease" from lactoferrin that is taken from cows, but this risk is generally considered very small. Additionally, most lactoferrin supplements are produced from specially engineered rice.

Lactoferrin is used for diarrhea, swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (hepatitis C), low levels of healthy red blood cells (anemia) due to iron deficiency, common cold, blood infection (sepsis), and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.

In industrial agriculture, lactoferrin is used to kill bacteria during meat processing.

How does it work?

Lactoferrin helps regulate how well iron is absorbed into the body from the intestine.

It also seems to protect against infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Lactoferrin seems to slow down the growth of bacteria by starving them of nutrients. It also destroys the walls around the bacteria. The lactoferrin contained in mother's milk is thought to help protect breast-fed infants against infections.

Lactoferrin also seems to be involved with the production of blood cells and how well the body fights off infections.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Low iron levels in women who are pregnant. Some research shows that taking lactoferrin as a source of iron during pregnancy might be as effective as ferrous sulfatesupplements.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Diarrhea in people taking antibiotics (antibiotic-associated diarrhea). Early research suggests that taking lactoferrin helps to prevent diarrhea from antibiotics in older people.
  • Low levels of healthy red blood cells (anemia) caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research in people with cancer who have low levels of red blood cells shows that taking lactoferrin as a source of iron might be as effective as receiving iron injections.
  • Diarrhea. Early research shows that taking lactoferrin does not reduce the chances of diarrhea in young children that have been weaned from breast milk.
  • A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). It is not clear if taking lactoferrin from cows (bovine lactoferrin) helps standard H. pylori treatments to work better. Some studies show bovine lactoferrin improves how well these medications work. But other studies show no benefit. However, studies do agree that taking lactoferrin alone is not effective for treating H. pylori infection.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (hepatitis C). Early research shows that taking lactoferrin from cows might improve some blood levels in people with hepatitis C.
  • A serious intestinal disease in premature infants (necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC). Early research suggests that giving lactoferrin to premature infants while they are in the hospital helps to prevent the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
  • Psoriasis. Early research shows that taking lactoferrin by mouth and applying it to the skin might reduce symptoms like redness and scaling in people with psoriasis.
  • Blood infection (sepsis). Early research suggests that giving lactoferrin to premature infants while they are in the hospital helps to prevent serious blood infections.
  • Common cold.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lactoferrin for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Lactoferrin is LIKELY SAFE in the amounts found in food. Consuming higher amounts of lactoferrin from cow's milk is POSSIBLY SAFE for up to a year. Human lactoferrin that is made from specially processed rice appears to be safe for up to 14 days. Lactoferrin can cause diarrhea. In very high doses, skin rash, loss of appetite, fatigue, chills, and constipation have been reported.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if lactoferrin is safe. It might cause skin irritation.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lactoferrin is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant and breast-feeding women when taken in food amounts. Lactoferrin is POSSIBLY SAFE in doses of 250 mg daily in women who are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. But there isn't enough reliable information to know if these larger amounts used as medicine are safe when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Children: In infants and young children, lactoferrin is POSSIBLY SAFE when added to liquid food.



We currently have no information for LACTOFERRIN Interactions.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:



  • For low iron levels in women who are pregnant: 200-250 mg lactoferrin each day for up to 8 weeks.

View References


  • Kruzel ML, Harari Y, Chen CY, Castro GA. The gut. A key metabolic organ protected by lactoferrin during experimental systemic inflammation in mice. Adv Exp Med Biol 1998;443:167-73. View abstract.
  • Laffan AM, McKenzie R, Forti J, et al. Lactoferrin for the prevention of post-antibiotic diarrhoea. J Health Popul Nutr. 2011;29(6):547-51. View abstract.
  • Macciò A, Madeddu C, Gramignano G, Mulas C, Sanna E, Mantovani G. Efficacy and safety of oral lactoferrin supplementation in combination with rHuEPO-beta for the treatment of anemia in advanced cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: open-label, randomized controlled study. Oncologist. 2010;15(8):894-902. View abstract.
  • Manfredi M, Bizzarri B, Sacchero RI, et al. Helicobacter pylori infection in clinical practice: probiotics and a combination of probiotics + lactoferrin improve compliance, but not eradication, in sequential therapy. Helicobacter. 2012;17(4):254-63. View abstract.
  • Ochoa TJ, Chea-Woo E, Baiocchi N, et al. Randomized double-blind controlled trial of bovine lactoferrin for prevention of diarrhea in children. J Pediatr. 2013;162(2):349-56. View abstract.
  • Okada S, Tanaka K, Sato T, et al. Dose-response trial of lactoferrin in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Jpn J Cancer Res 2002;93:1063-9. View abstract.
  • Otsuki K, Tokunaka M, Oba T, Nakamura M, Shirato N, Okai T. Administration of oral and vaginal prebiotic lactoferrin for a woman with a refractory vaginitis recurring preterm delivery: appearance of lactobacillus in vaginal flora followed by term delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2014;40(2):583-5. View abstract.
  • Pacora P, Maymon E, Gervasi MT, et al. Lactoferrin in intrauterine infection, human parturition, and rupture of fetal membranes. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2000;183:904-10. View abstract.
  • Pammi M, Suresh G. Enteral lactoferrin supplementation for prevention of sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;6:CD007137. View abstract.
  • Puddu P, Borghi P, Gessani S, et al. Antiviral effect of bovine lactoferrin saturated with metal ions on early steps of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 1998;30:1055-62. View abstract.
  • Saraceno R, Gramiccia T, Chimenti S, Valenti P, Pietropaoli M, Bianchi L. Topical lactoferrin can improve stable psoriatic plaque. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2014;149(3):335-40. View abstract.
  • Sherman MP, Petrak K. Lactoferrin-enhanced anoikis: A defense against neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis. Med Hypotheses 2005 Jun 9. View abstract.
  • Tong PL, West NP, Cox AJ, et al. Oral supplementation with bovine whey-derived Ig-rich fraction and lactoferrin improves SCORAD and DLQI in atopic dermatitis. J Dermatol Sci. 2017;85(2):143-146. View abstract.
  • Troost FJ, Saris WH, Brummer RJ. Orally ingested human lactoferrin is digested and secreted in the upper gastrointestinal tract in vivo in women with ileostomies. J Nutr 2002;132:2597-600. View abstract.
  • Troost FJ, Saris WH, Brummer RJ. Recombinant human lactoferrin ingestion attenuates indomethacin-induced enteropathy in vivo in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:1579-85. View abstract.
  • Valenti P, Berlutti F, Conte MP, et al. Lactoferrin functions: current status and perspectives. J Clin Gastroenterol 2004;38:S127-9. View abstract.
  • van't Land B, van Beek NM, van den Berg JJ, M'Rabet L. Lactoferrin reduces methotrexate-induced small intestinal damage, possibly through inhibition of GLP-2-mediated epithelial cell proliferation. Dig Dis Sci 2004;49:425-33. . View abstract.
  • Kaito M. Use of lactoferrin for chronic hepatitis C. Hepatol Res 2005;32:200-1. View abstract.
  • Abu Hashim H, Foda O, Ghayaty E. Lactoferrin or ferrous salts for iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy: A meta-analysis of randomized trials. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2017;219:45-52. View abstract.
  • Bellamy W, Takase M, Wakabayashi H, et al. Antibacterial spectrum of lactoferricin B, a potent bactericidal peptide derived from the N-terminal region of bovine lactoferrin. J Appl Bacteriol 1992;73:472-9. View abstract.
  • Bethell DR, Huang J. Recombinant human lactoferrin treatment for global health issues: iron deficiency and acute diarrhea. Biometals 2004;17:337-42. View abstract.
  • Conneely OM. Antiinflammatory activities of lactoferrin.J Am Coll Nutr 2001;20:389S-395S. View abstract.
  • Defer MC, Dugas B, Picard O, Damais C. Impairment of circulating lactoferrin in HIV-1 infection. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) 1995;41:417-21. View abstract.
  • Di Mario F, Aragona G, Bo ND, et al. Use of lactoferrin for Helicobacter pylori eradication. Preliminary results. J Clin Gastroenterol 2003;36:396-8. View abstract.
  • Di Mario F, Aragona G, Dal Bo N, et al. Use of bovine lactoferrin for Helicobacter pylori eradication.Dig Liver Dis 2003;35:706-10. . View abstract.
  • Dial EJ, Hall LR, Serna H, et al. Antibiotic properties of bovine lactoferrin on Helicobacter pylori. Dig Dis Sci 1998;43:2750-6. View abstract.
  • Drobni P, Naslund J, Evander M. Lactoferrin inhibits human papillomavirus binding and uptake in vitro. Antiviral Res 2004;64:63-8. View abstract.
  • Farnaud S, Evans RW. Lactoferrin--a multifunctional protein with antimicrobial properties. Mol Immunol 2003;40:395-405. View abstract.
  • Food and Drug Administration, CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety. Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000130. 2003. Available at: (Accessed 29 June 2005).
  • Guttner Y, Windsor HM, Viiala CH, Marshall BJ. Human recombinant lactoferrin is ineffective in the treatment of human Helicobacter pylori infection. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2003;17:125-9. View abstract.
  • Harmsen MC, Swart PJ, de Bethune MP, et al. Antiviral effects of plasma and milk proteins: lactoferrin shows potent activity against both human immunodeficiency virus and human cytomegalovirus replication in vitro. J Infect Dis 1995;172:380-8. View abstract.
  • Hirashima N, Orito E, Ohba K, et al. A randomized controlled trial of consensus interferon with or without lactoferrin for chronic hepatitis C patients with genotype 1b and high viral load. Hepatol Res 2004;29:9-12. View abstract.
  • Ishibashi Y, Takeda K, Tsukidate N, et al. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of interferon alpha-2b plus ribavirin with and without lactoferrin for chronic hepatitis C. Hepatol Res 2005;32:218-23. View abstract.
  • Ishii K, Takamura N, Shinohara M, et al. Long-term follow-up of chronic hepatitis C patients treated with oral lactoferrin for 12 months. Hepatol Res 2003;25:226-233. View abstract.
  • Iwasa M, Kaito M, Ikoma J, et al. Lactoferrin inhibits hepatitis C virus viremia in chronic hepatitis C patients with high viral loads and HCV genotype 1b. Am J Gastroenterol 2002;97:766-7.
  • Vetrugno V. Safety of milk and milk derivatives in relation to BSE: the lactoferrin example. Biometals 2004;17:353-6. View abstract.
  • Vitetta L, Coulson S, Beck SL, Gramotnev H, Du S, Lewis S. The clinical efficacy of a bovine lactoferrin/whey protein Ig-rich fraction (Lf/IgF) for the common cold: a double blind randomized study. Complement Ther Med. 2013;21(3):164-71. View abstract.
  • Vorland LH, Ulvatne H, Andersen J, et al. Lactoferricin of bovine origin is more active than lactoferricins of human, murine and caprine origin. Scand J Infect Dis 1998;30:513-7. View abstract.
  • Yamauchi K, Wakabayashi H, Hashimoto S, et al. Effects of orally administered bovine lactoferrin on the immune system of healthy volunteers. Adv Exp Med Biol 1998;443:261-5. View abstract.
  • Zhang GH, Mann DM, Tsai CM. Neutralization of endotoxin in vitro and in vivo by a human lactoferrin-derived peptide. Infect Immun 1999;67:1353-8. View abstract.
  • Zimecki M, Wlaszczyk A, Cheneau P, et al. Immunoregulatory effects of a nutritional preparation containing bovine lactoferrin taken orally by healthy individuals. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz) 1998;46:231-40.. View abstract.
  • Zullo A, De Francesco V, Scaccianoce G, et al. Quadruple therapy with lactoferrin for Helicobacter pylori eradication: A randomised, multicentre study. Dig Liver Dis 2005;37:496-500. View abstract.

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