Lactoferrin has been investigated for its potential to modulate on the one hand microbiota in infants, and on the other hand immune function.
Bovine lactoferrin beneficially modulates gut microbiome by increasing Bifidobacterium concentrations while decreasing Clostridium concentrations in infants (Tomita et al., 2009). This gut microbiome modulation may explain partially its immune-modulating effects. In neonatal piglets, bovine lactoferrin alters the capacity of mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen immune cells to respond to stimulation, supporting a role in the initiation of protective immune responses in immunologically challenged neonates (Comstock et al., 2014). In terms infants, bovine lactoferrin was shown to protect from lower respiratory tract illnesses (primarily wheezing) at 9 months. Improvements in hematocrit levels were also observed (King et al., 2007).
In very-lows birth weight neonates, a formula supplemented in lactoferrin with or without probiotics decreased the incidence of late-onset sepsis (bacterial and fungal) (Manzoni et al., 2009). An in-depth analysis of results showed that bovine lactoferrin had not reduced fungal colonization but reduced infections, suggesting the ability of lactoferrin to limit fungal colonies to progress toward invasion and systemic disease (Manzoni et al., 2011).