Overview

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 claim that transfer factors can pass along immunity to people who need it. Transfer factors are given as shots or taken by mouth.

Transfer factors are most commonly used for infections, often in people with weak immune systems. Transfer factors are also used for other conditions including various cancers, Crohn disease, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support any of these uses.

How does it work ?

Transfer factor might boost immunity to specific diseases.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Possibly Effective for

  • Shingles (herpes zoster). 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

  • 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.
  • The most serious type of skin cancer (melanoma). 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.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Acne. Early research suggests that transfer factor doesn't improve acne when given as a shot under the skin.
  • Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS). Early research suggests that transfer factor from humans doesn't seem to affect the course of ALS.
  • Cancer of the cervix. 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.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease). Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot into the muscle doesn't improve Crohn disease.
  • Genital herpes. Early research shows that transfer factor may help prevent genital herpes from recurring. It might also reduce the severity of recurrences that do occur.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (hepatitis B). Early 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.
  • Infection of the eye caused by herpes virus (herpes keratitis). 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.
  • Cold sores (herpes labialis). Early research shows that transfer factor may help prevent cold sores from recurring. It might also reduce the severity of recurrences that do occur.
  • 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.
  • Cancer of the lymph system (Hodgkin lymphoma). Early research shows that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't reduce infections in people with Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • A sexually transmitted infection that can lead to genital warts or cancer (human papillomavirus or HPV). Early research shows that taking transfer factor by mouth helps to treat skin changes and swelling of the cervix in women with HPV. But giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't seem to help clear warts in women with HPV.
  • Intestinal parasite infection. 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 infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions). 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.
  • Cancer of the white blood cells (leukemia). Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't improve recovery in people with leukemia.
  • A cancer that begins in white blood cells and affects the skin (mycosis fungoides). Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot into the muscle doesn't improve mycosis fungoides.
  • Cancer of the upper part of the throat behind the nose (nasopharyngeal cancer). Early research studies disagree about the effectiveness of transfer factor for improving survival in people with this type of 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 (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 (RA). Early research suggests that giving transfer factor as a shot under the skin doesn't improve RA in children under the age of 16 years.
  • Alzheimer disease.
  • Autism.
  • Diabetes.
  • Inability to become pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (infertility).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of transfer factor for these uses.

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: Transfer factors that have been taken from humans or cows are POSSIBLY SAFE in adults. They can cause fever in some people. 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.

When given as a shot into the muscle or under the skin: Transfer factors that have been taken from humans or cows are POSSIBLY SAFE when given as a shot to adults. They might cause fever in some people. They may also 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 and Warnings

When taken by mouth: Transfer factors that have been taken from humans or cows are POSSIBLY SAFE in adults. They can cause fever in some people. 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.

When given as a shot into the muscle or under the skin: Transfer factors that have been taken from humans or cows are POSSIBLY SAFE when given as a shot to adults. They might cause fever in some people. They may also 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.

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.

Children: Transfer factor from humans or cows is POSSIBLY SAFE in children.

Interactions ?

We currently have no information for TRANSFER FACTOR overview.

Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

ADULTS

AS A SHOT UNDER THE SKIN:
  • For shingles (herpes zoster): Transfer factor (from humans) has been given as an injection under the skin every day for 7 days.
CHILDREN

AS A SHOT UNDER THE SKIN:
  • For shingles (herpes zoster): 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.
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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2020.