Bovine lactoferrin shows antiviral potential against coronaviruses

Structure of human lactoferrin, a compound that we synthesize naturally/ Creativ
Structure of human lactoferrin, a compound that we synthesize naturally/ Creative Commons

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) have discovered that lactoferrin, a protein with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, exhibits significant antiviral activity against coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2. This finding, published in the journal Viruses, could open new avenues for the treatment and prevention of viral infections.

Lactoferrin, with anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory and antimicrobial properties, is a compound that we synthesize naturally. It is also recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a nutritional additive.

The Neurovirology group of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) has revealed in a recent study the antiviral capacity of bovine lactoferrin against two coronaviruses: SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and HCoV229E, one of the main agents of colds in humans.

The findings, published in the international journal Viruses, demonstrate the anti-coronavirus activity of liposomal lactoferrin in vitro. According to the researchers, "preliminary assays in both established cell lines and human lung models have shown the potential antiviral capacity of liposomal lactoferrin at non-cytotoxic doses."

The scientists also highlight the advantages of lipid encapsulation over the use of the compound in its free form. "Liposomal lactoferrin, encapsulated in small lipid capsules called liposomes, has a longer half-life than in its free form, releasing more gradually and showing greater effectiveness," they argue.

The study is signed by José Antonio López-Guerrero and Raquel Bello-Morales as principal investigators, and predoctoral researcher Sabina Andreu as first author. "Our next step is to advance studies with lactoferrin in animal and clinical models," they note.

"While the number of patients and severity of COVID-19 have decreased markedly following mass vaccination, we continue to face new variants and viral threats, both from coronaviruses and other respiratory viruses. Therefore, it is essential to be prepared to combat future infections, either through prevention with vaccines or the use of effective antivirals," the authors conclude.

Bibliographic reference:

Andreu, S.; Ripa, I.; Bello-Morales, R.; López-Guerrero, J.A. (2023). "Liposomal Lactoferrin Exerts Antiviral Activity against HCoV-229E and SARS-CoV-2 Pseudoviruses In Vitro". Viruses, 15, 972. Doi: 10.3390/v15040972.

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