The milk protein that’s a potential treatment for COVID-19

The availability of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus has gone a long way toward combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting vaccinated remains the best defense against the debilitating and potentially deadly disease.

But with more contagious variants like Delta making the rounds, COVID-19 infections are on the rise again — even in people who have been fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, the one drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19 in hospitalized patients, the antiviral remdesivir, has been subject to supply shortages. And the full treatment course of remdesivir can cost thousands of dollars, which can leave people with little or no health insurance scrambling to figure out how to pay for it.

There are also several monoclonal antibody drugs for which the FDA has granted emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19. However, these therapies are expensive and difficult to produce, and they need to be administered within a few days of SARS-CoV-2 infection to be fully effective.

All of this is driving scientists around the globe to continue their tireless search for effective COVID-19 treatments that are less costly and easier to access. To that end, University of Michigan researchers have uncovered several potential candidates already in use for other conditions, with one of the most effective being a protein commonly found in milk…

Lactoferrin may help combat COVID-19

According to the University of Michigan researchers, lactoferrin is one of several compounds that could block or reduce SARS-CoV-2 infection in cells. Lactoferrin is a protein that works to bind and transport iron in the body, and it helps fight infection and inflammation. When taken as a supplement, lactoferrin may help improve acne and prevent osteoporosis, as well as promote healthy gut bacteria.

The University of Michigan study used artificial intelligence to analyze images of human cell lines during coronavirus infection. The cells were treated with more than 1,400 FDA-approved drugs and compounds, either before or after viral infection, then screened.

From this, the researchers identified 17 potential COVID-19 therapies, 10 of which were newly recognized, including lactoferrin. The remaining seven, including remdesivir, had been identified in previous drug repurposing studies.

The researchers are hoping to speed up the process of pinpointing existing therapies that could treat COVID-19. “Traditionally, the drug development process takes a decade — and we just don’t have a decade,” says Dr. Jonathan Sexton, assistant professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and one of the senior authors on the paper.

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Because the safety of these existing therapies has already been established, research into their ability to treat COVID-19 could skip the early research and development stages and go straight to phase 2 clinical trials, Sexton notes. This could save years off the development process.

Nine of the 17 candidates showed antiviral activity at what researchers considered to be reasonable doses — including lactoferrin.

“We found lactoferrin had remarkable efficacy for preventing infection, working better than anything else we observed,” Sexton says, adding that early data suggests its effectiveness extends to newer variants of SARS-CoV-2, including Delta.

The researchers plan to launch clinical trials of lactoferrin to investigate its ability to reduce viral loads and inflammation in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Nutrients that bolster the body’s viral defenses

Lactoferrin may prove to be used in an effective treatment for those infected with SARS-CoV-2 and give healthcare workers another much-needed option.

Lactoferrin is also becoming popular as a supplement. The best source of lactoferrin is human breast milk — particularly colostrum, the milk produced right after the baby’s birth. However, it’s also found in cow’s milk, and lactoferrin supplements are typically produced from either cow’s milk or genetically modified rice. You can also get lactoferrin from whey protein concentrates.

Because it seems to help protect against some infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi, it makes sense its popularity is experiencing a resurgence, as have other nutrients that support a healthy immune system.

As we’ve reported in earlier issues, growing evidence of the potential of vitamin D to provide support to the immune system has prompted healthcare professionals worldwide to urge people to increase their vitamin D consumption.

One study indicated melatonin may offer protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly when administered by nasal drops or spray. And another found SARS-CoV-2 lost its ability to infect cells when treated with an extract made from natto, a Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!

Sources:

Existing drugs kill SARS-CoV-2 in cells — University of Michigan Health Lab

Morphological cell profiling of SARS-CoV-2 infection identifies drug repurposing candidates for COVID-19 — PNAS

Know Your Treatment Options for COVID-19 — FDA

The Health Benefits of Lactoferrin — Verywell Health

Whey Protein Components — WheyOfLife.org

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.