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:
- 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. When given as a shot under the skin to people with shingles, transfer factor seems to help reduce the duration of pain compared to the drug acyclovir.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- 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.
- 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 in most people with lung cancer. However, early research suggests that transfer factor might improve survival in people with advanced stage (Stage 3IIIA or 3IIIB) lung cancer.
- 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 2 years following surgery for Stage I and Stage II melanoma.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Most studies show that transfer factor does not slow disease progression in people with MS. While some research shows that transfer factor might slow disease progression in people with mild to moderate symptoms, it appears to take 18 months to 2 years of treatment to see any effect.
- Acne. Early research suggests that transfer factor doesn't improve acne when given as a shot under the skin.
- 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.
- Asthma. Taking transfer factor by mouth or as a shot into the muscle doesn't seem to improve clinical status or lung function in most people with asthma. However, some research shows that taking transfer factor by mouth might reduce the need for steroid drugs in children with persistent asthma due to allergies.
- Red, itchy skin (eczema). Research studies disagree about the effectiveness of transfer factor for treating eczema. Some research shows that taking transfer factor relieves symptoms. Other studies show it has no benefit.
- Cervical cancer. Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin after surgery and radiation treatment for cervical cancer reduces the risk of recurrence.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Transfer factor doesn't seem to improve symptoms in people with CFS when given as a shot into the muscle. However, early research suggests that it might improve symptoms when taken by mouth.
- Crohn's disease. Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot into the muscle doesn't improve Crohn's disease.
- Seizures (epilepsy). Early research shows that taking transfer factor along with the antiseizure drugs carbamazepine or primidon reduces the number of seizures that occur in people with epilepsy.
- Hepatitis B. Research studies disagree about the effectiveness of transfer factor for treating hepatitis B. Some studies show that transfer factor taken from patients with acute hepatitis B might be useful for treating ongoing active hepatitis B infection. However, other studies show no benefit.
- Herpes. Early research suggests that transfer factor might help prevent a second bout of eye infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) in people with a history of having these infections. Also, transfer factor seems to help prevent genital or oral herpes from recurring.
- HIV/AIDS. Early research shows that taking transfer factor specific for HIV by mouth doesn't slow the progression of HIV in people also being treated with the HIV drug zidovudine.
- Hodgkin's disease. Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't reduce infections in people with Hodgkin's disease.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV). Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't help treat warts in people with HPV.
- 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.
- Leukemia. Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't improve recovery in people with leukemia.
- A type of cancer called mycosis fungoides. Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot into the muscle doesn't improve mycosis fungoides.
- Nose and throat cancer. Research studies disagree about the effectiveness of transfer factor for improving survival in people with nose and throat cancer. Some research shows that giving transfer factor with specific activity against Epstein-Barr virus as a shot into the muscle improves survival. Other research shows no benefit.
- A type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't improve survival or reduce tumor recurrence in people with osteosarcoma.
- Prostate cancer. Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot into the muscle might reduce the progression of certain types of prostate cancer.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't improve arthritis in children under the age of 16 years.
- 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.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Other conditions.
TRANSFER FACTOR Side Effects & Safety
Transfer factors that have been taken from humans are POSSIBLY SAFE when used for up to 2 years in adults.
Transfer factors that are taken from cows are POSSIBLY SAFE when used short-term, up to 3 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 is POSSIBLY SAFE in children when given for up to 6 years. Transfer factor from cows is POSSIBLY SAFE in children when given by mouth for up to 6 months.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking transfer factor if you are pregnant or 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.