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Lactoferrin, Stool

Stool lactoferrin is a biochemical marker that is used to assess inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, particularly in the intestines. Lactoferrin is a protein that is present in various bodily fluids, including saliva, tears, and the mucosal surfaces of the GI tract. It plays a role in the body's defense against infections and inflammation.

Lactoferrin measurement gauges the presence and severity of inflammation in the intestines, aiding in diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

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Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein with antimicrobial properties. It helps to regulate iron levels in the body and has the ability to bind to and neutralize bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, making it an important component of the innate immune system.

Stool lactoferrin is primarily used as a marker of inflammation in the GI tract. Elevated levels of lactoferrin in stool samples suggest the presence of inflammation, which can be associated with various GI conditions, including:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Infectious colitis caused by bacterial or parasitic infections.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with diarrhea, in some cases.

Normal levels of stool lactoferrin are generally low, as there is minimal inflammation in a healthy GI tract. Elevated levels suggest ongoing inflammation and the degree of elevation can provide insights into the severity of the inflammation. It can help differentiate between inflammatory and non-inflammatory causes of GI symptoms.

Limitations: While stool lactoferrin is a useful marker, it is not specific to any particular GI condition and cannot definitively diagnose a specific disease. Additional tests, such as endoscopy, colonoscopy, and biopsy, may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis and identify the underlying cause of inflammation.

Clinical Utility: Stool lactoferrin testing is particularly helpful in monitoring the disease activity in patients with IBD. It can assist in assessing the response to treatment and in identifying disease flares.

Lactoferrin is stable in feces for several days at room temperature, and even longer if the stool is refrigerated. 

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