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Cow's Milk Protein Could Help Save Preemies' Lives
Date:10/6/2009

Lactoferrin cut blood infections by about two-thirds, study found,,

TUESDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A protein from cow's milk could reduce by about two-thirds the rate of serious blood infections in babies born weighing less than 3.3 pounds.

That's the conclusion of a study published in the Oct. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that found when these tiny newborns were given a daily dose of the milk protein lactoferrin along with a probiotic bacteria during the first weeks of life, the incidence of the blood infection sepsis dropped dramatically.

"Prevention of sepsis in neonates can be achieved through supplementation of a simple, easily available, cost-effective intervention that is well-tolerated and may be implemented in all settings, including Third World [countries]," said study author Dr. Paolo Manzoni, a neonatologist at S. Anna Hospital in Torino, Italy.

However, when isolated from milk and then concentrated -- as it was in this study -- bovine lactoferrin is not yet approved for use in the United States.

"The biggest hurdle if I was to use this, is that it's not FDA-approved," said the author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, Dr. David Kaufman, assistant medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Medical School in Charlottesville.

"Preventive strategies in these infants are really critical. Many preterm babies don't survive because of infection. I hope this treatment gets fast-tracked for approval, because this is a big effect from what seems like a safe and minimal intervention," said Kaufman.

Because bovine lactoferrin is naturally found in cow's milk, Manzoni said the researchers don't expect any long-term safety problems. Lactoferrin is also found in breast milk, but because of the concentrations needed, has to be genetically engineered, making it more expensive, accor
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