Effects of lactoferrin on neonatal pathogens and Bifidobacterium breve in human breast milk

Tabitha Woodman, Tobias Strunk, Sanjay Patole, Benjamin Hartmann, Karen Simmer, Andrew Currie

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    35 Citations (Scopus)


    Supplementation with probiotics in preterm infants reduces necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis. Bovine lactoferrin is a promising supplement that may further reduce disease burden, but its effects on probiotic bacteria in human breast milk has not been evaluated. We aimed to characterise the antimicrobial activity of bovine and human lactoferrin in human breast milk against probiotics and typical neonatal sepsis pathogens. Lactoferrin levels were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay in fresh and pasteurised human breast milk. The neonatal pathogens Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli, and the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve strain M-16V were cultured in human breast milk or infant formula in the presence or absence of clinically relevant doses of bovine or human lactoferrin. Standard microbiological methods were used to determine the effects of lactoferrin on bacterial growth. Unpasteurised human breast milk contained significantly higher lactoferrin levels and resulted in superior inhibition of pathogenic bacterial growth compared to infant formula and pasteurised human breast milk. Human lactoferrin was significantly more effective at inhibiting bacterial growth, when compared to bovine lactoferrin. Supplementation with human lactoferrin or high dose bovine lactoferrin inhibited growth of the probiotic strain B. breve M-16V in pasteurised human breast milk. Although unpasteurised human breast milk and human lactoferrin had the greatest antimicrobial activity against all bacterial species tested, higher doses of bovine lactoferrin also showed activity against B. breve and. S. epidermidis. This study suggests that simultaneous administration of lactoferrins and probiotics may affect colonisation with probiotic bacteria, warranting further investigations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0201819
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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