BACKGROUND: Preterm infants are at a high risk of developing late-onset sepsis (LOS). Lactoferrin is one of the most abundant endogenous antimicrobial proteins expressed in breast milk, stools, and blood, and a candidate for preventive intervention. Large clinical trials have recently investigated whether enteral supplementation with bovine lactoferrin reduces LOS.

AIM: To characterize lactoferrin levels in preterm infants with and without LOS during the first month of life.

METHODS: Very preterm and term infants were recruited and serial biosamples collected during the first month of life. Lactoferrin levels were determined by immunoassay in cord blood and peripheral blood on days 1, 7, 14, 21, and 28; in the stools on days 1 and 28; and in the mother's breast milk on days 7 and 21. Furthermore, we assessed the capacity of the peripheral blood to release lactoferrin in response to an in vitro challenge with live Staphylococcus epidermidis, lipopolysaccharide, and fibroblast-stimulating lipopeptide 1.

RESULTS: Plasma lactoferrin levels were higher in cord blood and day 1 peripheral blood and declined during the first month of life. Plasma lactoferrin levels were similar in term infants and in preterm infants with (n = 32) and without LOS (n = 53). S. epidermidis-induced lactoferrin levels were lower following the sepsis episode.

CONCLUSIONS: Endogenous lactoferrin expression in preterm infants does not appear to affect their risk of developing LOS. These findings are in line with the lack of benefit recently observed in large trials of enteral supplementation with bovine lactoferrin to prevent LOS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-611
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Early online date28 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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