TRANSFER FACTOR Overview Information
A transfer factor is a chemical that is taken from a human or animal that has already developed protection (immunity) against a certain disease. So far, transfer factors for various diseases have been produced only in laboratories for experimental use. Researchers are interested in finding out whether transfer factors can pass along immunity to people who need it. Transfer factors are given as shots or taken by mouth.
Transfer factors are used for infectious conditions in people with weak immune systems. These infectious conditions include bacteria or viruses in the blood stream (septicemia), sinus infections, bronchitis, influenza, swine flu, the common cold, shingles, chickenpox, hepatitis B, fungal infections such as coccidioidomycosis, yeast infections (candidiasis), parasitic infections such as leishmaniasis and cryptosporidiosis, and leprosy. Transfer factors are also used against infections caused by viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus; by bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium fortuitum, and Mycobacterium avium; and by yeast-like fungus such as Cryptococcus and Pneumocystis carinii.
Transfer factors are also used for diabetes, autism, infertility, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Behcet's syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, balding, and Alzheimer's disease. They are also used for skin conditions including psoriasis, allergic dermatitis, and others. Other uses include an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis, bone cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, food and chemical allergies, myasthenia gravis, and asthma.
How does it work?
Transfer factor might boost immunity to specific diseases.
Possibly Effective for:
- Immunizing children with leukemia against shingles. Giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin seems to prevent shingles in children with leukemia. However, transfer factor doesn’t seem to prevent a second bout of shingles or restore protection against shingles in people who have received a bone marrow transplant for leukemia.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Transfer factor given as a shot into the muscle doesn't seem to improve CFS.
- Lung cancer. Some researchers have tried adding transfer factor shots to usual lung cancer treatment such as surgery and chemotherapy. However, the transfer factor doesn’t seem to affect survival.
- Melanoma (a type of skin cancer). Giving transfer factor as a shot along with usual treatment doesn't seem to slow the progress of the disease or extend life when used for up to two years following surgery for Stage I and Stage II melanoma.
- Treating a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). Transfer factor from humans doesn't seem to affect the course of ALS.
- AIDS-related infections. Developing research suggests that taking transfer factor by mouth might help people with cryptosporidiosis related to AIDS. Cryptosporidiosis is an infection caused by one-celled organisms (protozoa) and produces diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Transfer factor from cows seems to improve symptoms.
- Skin wounds caused by a parasitic infection called leishmaniasis. There's some evidence that transfer factor taken from patients with antibodies to leishmania, the organism that causes leishmaniasis, can help hard-to-heal skin wounds associated with leishmaniasis.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Research studies disagree about the effectiveness of transfer factor taken from humans for MS. Transfer factor might slow disease progression in people with mild to moderate symptoms. But it takes 18 months to 2 years of treatment to see any effect.
- A genetic disease called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. Some research suggests that transfer factor taken from humans might extend life in people with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
- Hepatitis B. Transfer factor taken from patients with acute hepatitis B might be useful for treating ongoing active hepatitis B infection.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Other conditions.
TRANSFER FACTOR Side Effects & Safety
Transfer factors that have been taken from humans seem to be safe when used for up to two years in adults.
Transfer factors that are taken from cows seem to be safe when used short-term, up to three months. They can cause fever in some people. Transfer factors given as a shot (by injection) can cause swelling and pain where the injection is given.
There is some concern about the possibility of catching “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalitis, BSE) or other diseases from products that come from animals. “Mad cow disease” has not been transmitted by transfer factor, but it is probably wise to avoid animal products from countries where mad cow disease has been found.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: The shot form of transfer factor from humans has been used with apparent safety in children for up to 6 years. Transfer factor from cows seems to be safe in children when given by mouth for up to six months.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of transfer factor during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
TRANSFER FACTOR Dosing
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For preventing shingles (varicella zoster infection) in children with leukemia: a single dose of transfer factor (from humans) that is specific for the varicella virus is given. The health provider giving the shot calculates the proper dose based on the child's weight.