Human lactoferrin (hLF) as well as bovine lactoferrin (bLF) inhibited infection of tissue culture cells with human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and human herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) . The addition of lactoferrin (LF) inhibited both in vitro infection and replication of HCMV and HSV-1 in human embryo lung host cells. The maximum inhibition by more than six exponentials of TCID50 for HCMV and four exponentials for HSV-1 was obtained at a concentration in a range from 0.5 to 1 mg of LF per ml of medium.
The antiviral activity of LF was associated with its protein moiety, but not with its iron molecule or sialic acid. None of other transferrin gene family members bound to ferrous ions or sialic acid possessed significant antiviral activity.
Additionally, we found that LF prevented virus adsorption and/or penetration into host cells, indicating an effect on the early events of virus infection. Preincubation of host cells with LF for 5 to 10 min was sufficient to prevent HCMV infection, even when LF was removed after addition of virus. These results suggest that LF possesses a potent antiviral activity and may be useful in preventing HCMV and HSV-1 infection in humans.