Drink milk, live better

Published: Wednesday 15 July 1998

A protein in milk helps protect against septic shock -- a blood infection that causes anything from a mild fever to organ failure and death. Feeding the protein lactoferrin to newborn piglets protected them against a lethal bacterial toxin. The researchers say that bottled milk fortified with extra lactoferrin could provide additional protection for infants, before their immune systems mature. Difficult to treat successfully with antibiotics, septic shock is the leading cause of death among intensive care patients in the United States and elsewhere. Some laboratory studies have suggested that lactoferrin, a protein that binds to iron in milk, can glom on to damaging bacterial toxins and render them harmless. Yoon Kim of Finch University of Health Sciences and the Chicago Medical School, Chicago, USA, and his colleagues set out to test whether oral lactoferrin also worked. His group injected 37 piglets with a bacterial endotoxin from Escherichia coli ; 18 were fed lactoferrin. But after 48 hours, the results were more dramatic; all the piglets not fed lactoferrin had contracted hypothermia and 14 had died, while seven of the lactoferrin piglets developed hypothermia and only three died ( Infection and Immunity , Vol 66, No4).

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