Beyond the absolute and indisputable relevance and efficacy of anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, the rapid transmission, the severity of infection, the absence of the protection on immunocompromised patients, the propagation of variants, the onset of infection and/or disease in vaccinated subjects and the lack of availability of worldwide vaccination require additional antiviral treatments. Since 1987, lactoferrin (Lf) is well-known to possess an antiviral activity related to its physico-chemical properties and to its ability to bind to both heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) of host cells and/or surface components of viral particles. In the present review, we summarize in vitro and in vivo studies concerning the efficacy of Lf against DNA, RNA, enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. Recent studies have revealed that the in vitro antiviral activity of Lf is also extendable to SARS-CoV-2. In vivo, Lf oral administration in early stage of SARS-CoV-2 infection counteracts COVID-19 pathogenesis. In particular, the effect of Lf on SARS-CoV-2 entry, inflammatory homeostasis, iron dysregulation, iron-proteins synthesis, reactive oxygen formation, oxidative stress, gut-lung axis regulation as well as on RNA negativization, and coagulation/fibrinolysis balance will be critically reviewed. Moreover, the molecular mechanisms underneath, including the Lf binding to HSPGs and spike glycoprotein, will be disclosed and discussed. Taken together, present data not only support the application of the oral administration of Lf alone in asymptomatic COVID-19 patients or as adjuvant of standard of care practice in symptomatic ones but also constitute the basis for enriching the limited literature on Lf effectiveness for COVID-19 treatment.
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