Human Milk Proteins: Their Power to Improve the Health Status of Children in Developing Countries

It has long been known that human breastmilk provides crucial health advantages to newborn infants as they develop, and has been a topic of intense research. Current clinical innovations seek to harness the benefits of human breastmilk to address global medical needs. With functions such as energy provision, immunologic power, and gut maturation, there are multiple indications where breastmilk, or components of breastmilk, could be utilized to diminish the negative side effects of an infection or disease. Recently, scientists have taken this approach to children suffering from an intestinal disorder known as Environmental Enteric Dysfunction (EED).

EED affects a vast number of impoverished children across the globe with no previous effective treatment

Children in developing countries who suffer from nutrient deficiencies, frequent exposure to pathogens and poor sanitation, often display poor health outcomes as a result of EED. These children have less efficient nutrient absorption and an increased incidence of infection due to susceptibility to pathogens and toxins. Not only does this cause stunted growth, but it is often linked to the development of acute malnutrition which together, can result in long term health consequences for the remainder of their lives. In past studies, treatments with probiotics, antibiotics, and supplementation of various nutrients were not found to be effective in improving the biomarkers of EED.

Research shows the human milk proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme, can improve health outcomes in children

Present in significant concentrations in human milk, lactoferrin and lysozyme have been shown to reduce gut inflammation while also working synergistically in fighting off bacterial pathogens. Because of this, they have previously been tested in different studies targeting diarrhea with demonstrated success in decreasing the duration and severity of childhood diarrhea [1]. They have also been tested in a completely different population of patients to reduce inflammation in the elderly. Given these encouraging results, scientists turned to supplementation of lactoferrin and lysozyme as a prime candidate for treating EED.

A newly published clinical study shows the benefit of synthetic human milk protein supplementation in EED

In a study reported by Dr. Mark Manary, the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, involving 214 children, two human milk proteins were supplemented and evaluated for their beneficial effect in reducing EED. The results were recently published in American Journal of Gastroenterology [2] and show that daily supplementation of both lactoferrin and lysozyme effectively led to improvements in the overall health of children at high risk of EED. The health benefits from daily supplementation of lactoferrin and lysozyme included reduced development of moderate acute malnutrition and lower rates of hospitalization. 

“Poor gut health has plagued the most disadvantaged children of the world for centuries, resulting in lifelong consequences. This study helps us understand what types of biologically active nutrients might ameliorate this scourge.

– Dr. Mark Manary


Not only were lactoferrin and lysozyme effective, but due to Ventria Bioscience’s ExpressTec platform, the synthetic milk proteins can be delivered on a cost-effective basis and produced at the large scale required by this type of global health application. In developing countries where EED is most often seen in poverty-stricken populations, this is a critical breakthrough.



  1. N. Zavaleta, D. Figueroa, J. Rivera, J. Sánchez, S. Alfaro, and B. Lönnerdal, “Efficacy of rice-based oral rehydration solution containing recombinant human lactoferrin and lysozyme in Peruvian children with acute diarrhea,” J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr., vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 258–264, Feb. 2007.
  2. W. D. Cheng et al., “Supplementation With Lactoferrin and Lysozyme Ameliorates Environmental Enteric Dysfunction: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Am. J. Gastroenterol., vol. 114, no. 4, pp. 671–678, Apr. 2019.