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Can Colostrum Fight Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV), although research is still ongoing.

Unfortunately, there’s no studies on colostrum and coronaviruses or COVID-19. However, colostrum does have immune boosting potential.

Several clinical trials suggest there may be some benefit for respiratory infections, the flu, HIV, and other infections. Not all studies showed benefits, however, and more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.

Overall, consuming colostrum is a healthy way to boost the immune system, but there’s no direct evidence that it can be helpful for COVID-19.

Immune Boosting

In a clinical trial with 12 healthy people, colostrum increased white blood cell activity (such as monocytes) and T cell levels (CD3+) after 1 hour. It also briefly reduced blood levels of natural killer cells. After a couple of hours, new natural killer cells entered the blood, which restored their levels [1].

However, it did not improve aspects of immunity (lymphocyte growth, oxidative burst, phagocytosis, and more) in 198 healthy adults [2].

In mice, colostrum boosted the killing ability of natural killer white blood cells. In pigs, it increased total IgA levels and activated cells that monitor and block the growth of harmful bacteria (Peyer’s patches, which form the gut’s immune system) [3, 4].

Anti Infection Potential

Respiratory Infections (excluding flu)

Several studies revealed that colostrum may be beneficial for people with respiratory illnesses and infections.

In one clinical trial of 174 people, fewer people reported upper respiratory tract infection symptoms when taking 60 g/day of colostrum protein for 8 weeks compared to whey protein [5].

However, another trial on 148 people found colostrum tablets ineffective for sore throat [6].

In 5 clinical trials on 152 athletes or physically active people, supplementation with bovine colostrum during periods of intense exercise was effective at reducing the incidence of upper respiratory infections [7, 8], enhancing the immune system [9, 10], or both [11].

As expected, this benefit might be even more important in children. In one study with 605 children with either respiratory illness or diarrhea, colostrum decreased the number of respiratory episodes by over 90% after 12 weeks. In another similar study, colostrum achieved similar benefits in just 4 weeks (160 children) [12, 13].

In a clinical trial with 31 children deficient in IgA, taking colostrum 3X/day for 1 week decreased the severity of respiratory symptoms. IgA levels, however, didn’t change [14].

A multi-ingredient supplement containing bovine colostrum (Sinerga) reduced the incidence of respiratory infections in 2 clinical trials on 187 children [15, 16].

In mice infected with respiratory syncytial virus, dietary bovine colostrum reduced virus titers in the lungs and enhanced CD8 T cell response [17].

Flu

Colostrum has been called the “baby’s first vaccination”.

Interestingly enough, two studies with 285 people suggest that colostrum, either on its own or in combination with other drugs, may be a superior means of prevention compared to a vaccine. People who took colostrum had the flu for fewer days than people who received the vaccine [18, 19].

That said, the trials included younger healthy adults. This effect is yet to be investigated in the elderly and people with compromised immunity.

In mice, taking purified antibodies from hyperimmune colostrum (either IgG or F(ab’)2) prevented infection after being subjected to the flu virus. Mice that took these antibodies and got an otherwise lethal dose of the flu virus survived [20].

In two other mouse studies, colostrum reduced flu infection severity, prevented excessive weight loss, lowered the viral load in the lungs, and increased white blood cell (NK cell) activity [3, 21].

Taking antibodies (including IgA) from human or bovine colostrum after a flu outbreak prevented infection from the influenza A virus in rodents [22, 20].

HIV

People with HIV/AIDS are at high risk for severe and sometimes even life-threatening diarrhea and weight loss. Specific antibodies (Lactobin) from specialized forms of colostrum can help. In two studies with 54 HIV patients, 10 g/day of lactobin greatly reduced diarrhea frequency [23, 24].

Two studies with 117 HIV patients showed that ColoPlus (a food supplement made from cow colostrum), either alone or combined with regular diarrhea treatment, can reduce the frequency of bowel movements, increase T cell count (CD4+), support weight gain, and raise energy levels [25, 26].

However, bovine colostrum failed to increase CD4+ counts in another trial on 75 people infected with HIV [27].

Rotavirus

Rotavirus most commonly affects children and newborns, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Hyperimmune colostrum may help with this type of diarrhea, in part by providing antibodies (IgA) against rotavirus [28]. 

In one study of 80 children with rotavirus-induced diarrhea, taking anti-rotavirus antibodies from colostrum for 4 days greatly reduced the frequency of bowel movements and overall diarrhea. Patients receiving colostrum also got rid of the virus faster than those taking placebo [29].

Hyperimmune colostrum eliminated this type of diarrhea within 2 days in a clinical trial with 75 children. This specialized form of colostrum was also effective in babies. In two studies with 33 newborns, it prevented diarrhea from rotavirus without any side effects [30, 31, 32].

Other

Antibodies from human colostrum protected mice from tuberculosis in another study [33].

In test tubes, antibodies isolated from human colostrum were active against HIV [34], coxsackievirus B4 [35], avian flu H4 [36], and norovirus virus-like particles [37].

A proline-rich polypeptide isolated from colostrum (colostrinin) increased TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma production in cells and 2 healthy volunteers [38].

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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