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Could an ingredient in your refrigerator be the key to fighting off COVID-19?

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Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 15:06:03-04

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This includes the myriad of ways people are recovering from COVID-19.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Credit: NIAID-RML

We look at a new study that has a group of scientists believing milk may be the secret ingredient to fighting this pandemic.

It was a medical student at the University of Michigan who stumbled upon a specific protein in cow's milk that could fight COVID-19 and its variants.

The study is still in early stages. But Jonathan Sexton, biomedical research chemist and assistant professor for the Department of Internal medicine at the University of Michigan's Medical School, says, "The ability of a natural milk protein to combat a disease like COVID-19 was really exciting."


Sexton was a researcher on this this study, that was just published in The Journal of Dairy Science.

The specific protein the university researchers found in cow's milk is called "lactoferrin". He says this protein can be found in any other milk from a mammal, including goat's milk or from a human.

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"Lactoferrin is also available in your saliva, your tears, and in your respiratory system," Sexton adds. "(It's an) anti-microbial mechanism that your body has, and were just trying to turn it up."

He says the study used human lung cells that researchers then exposed the COVID-19 virus to.

"When we put lactoferrin together with these human cells, we don't observe any toxicities. Its extremely safe. Lactoferrin prevents the virus from entering the cell," Sexton said.

So, how much milk would you have to drink for that to work?

"You would need to drink about two to three gallons of milk which is quite a lot in a day," Sexton explained. "This is why we have to purify it out of milk and deliver it as a dietary supplement."

The research will now move into a clinical trial with real people for further proof. This is something infectious disease doctor Mary Beth Graham at Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin hopes to see next before suggesting this as a supplements to her patients.

"If I eat chocolate cake every day but don't get COVID, does that mean chocolate cake prevents COVID? No," said Dr. Graham.

"It's not that they're potentially beneficial. I really would like a lot more information. I can go on Amazon right now and buy lactoferrin (supplements), and sometimes taking too much of something can be dangerous," said Dr. Graham adding, "So that's where it gets confusing for everyone. I'm not just saying it gets confusing for the public, it gets confusing for providers too."


Dr. Graham shared the best course of action to prevent viruses in her opinion.

"Get your vaccine," she adds. "I think it's not an unreasonable thing to consider masking for those higher risk individuals during that time when they could potentially be exposed."

Sexton says the University of Michigan already has funding for the next step, which is a clinical trial studying COVID-19 patients at the University of Michigan Hospital. He adds the study has been approved by the FDA to start sometime this summer.

It is always best to talk to your doctor first before taking anything. This supplement may not be a good candidate for anyone who is already allergic to dairy or whey proteins.

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