At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To detect inflammation in the intestines; to help identify active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); to distinguish between IBD and non-inflammatory bowel conditions; to monitor IBD activity
When to Get Tested?
When you have bloody or watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, lasting more than a few days
A stool sample collected in a clean container
Test Preparation Needed?
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Lactoferrin is protein released by a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. When there is inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, neutrophils are attracted to the area and release lactoferrin, increasing the level of the protein in the stool. This test measures the level of lactoferrin in stool as a way to detect inflammation in the intestines.
Intestinal inflammation is associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and with some bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract, but it is not associated with many other disorders that affect bowel function and cause similar symptoms. Lactoferrin can be used to help distinguish between inflammatory and non-inflammatory conditions.
IBD, a group of chronic disorders that includes both ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn disease (CD), is characterized by swollen and damaged tissues in the lining of the intestinal tract. Those affected typically have flare-ups of active disease that alternate with periods of remission. Lactoferrin testing can be useful in monitoring disease activity.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A stool sample is collected in a clean container provided by the laboratory. This sample should be uncontaminated by urine or water.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
Ask a Laboratory Scientist
This form enables you to ask specific questions about your tests. Your questions will be answered by a laboratory scientist as part of a voluntary service provided by one of our partners, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. If your questions are not related to your lab tests, please submit them via our Contact Us form. Thank you.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Caccaro, R. et. al. (2012). Clinical Utility of Calprotectin and Lactoferrin in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Medscape Today News from Expert Rev Clin Immunol v8 (6):579-585 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/771596 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed February 2013.
Sherwood, R. (2012). Faecal Markers of Gastrointestinal Inflammation. Medscape Today News from J Clin Pathol. v65 (11):981-985 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773411 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed February 2013.
Tebo, A. (2013 January). Inflammatory Bowel Disease – IBD. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/IBD.html?client_ID=LTD through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed February 2013.
(© 1995–2013). Lactoferrin Detection. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/91560 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed February 2013.
Wilkins, T. et. al. (2011 December 15). Diagnosis and Management of Crohn's Disease. Am Fam Physician. v84 (12):1365-1375. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/1215/p1365.html through http://www.aafp.org. Accessed February 2013.
Manohara, J. et. al. (2009 January). Fecal Calprotectin and Lactoferrin as Noninvasive Markers of Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition v48 (1): 48-54. [On-line information]. Available online at http://journals.lww.com/jpgn/Fulltext/2009/01000/Fecal_Calprotectin_and_Lactoferrin_as_Noninvasive.8.aspx through http://journals.lww.com. Accessed February 2013.
Pfefferkorn, M. et. al. (2010 October). Utility of Fecal Lactoferrin in Identifying Crohn Disease Activity in Children. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition v51 (4): 425-428 [On-line information]. Available online at http://journals.lww.com/jpgn/Fulltext/2010/10000/Utility_of_Fecal_Lactoferrin_in_Identifying_Crohn.7.aspx through http://journals.lww.com. Accessed February 2013.
Delgado, J. and Grenache, D. (Updated 2012 October). Malabsorption. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/Malabsorption.html#tabs=0 through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed February 2013.
Lewis, J. (2011). The Utility of Biomarkers in the Diagnosis and Therapy of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Gastroenterology v140:1817–1826. [On-line information]. PDF available for download at http://ibdsupplements.org/IBD/pdf/special/4.pdf through http://ibdsupplements.org. Accessed February 2013.
Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 606-607.
Dai, J., W-Z Liu, and Y-P Zhao, et al. 2007. Relationship between fecal lactoferrin and inflammatory bowel disease. Scan J GastroEnt. 42:1440-1444. Available online at http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00365520701427094 through http://informahealthcare.com. Accessed March 2013.