The term "transfer factor" refers to the body's mechanism for communicating information throughout the immune system about infectious agents it has encountered.
Researchers have been working steadily for years to unlock the secrets of this mechanism and its uses – which now extend to transfer-factor delivery via dietary supplements. So far, we know that:
1. In all animals, certain disease-fighting immune cells – helper T-cells – learn "on the job" about the world's myriad bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms, both useful and potentially harmful. The helper T-cells then pass on or transfer specific messages about each threat they've encountered to other types of immune system cells – instructing them about how to recognize and fend off these known invaders in any re-infection. The messages are carried by a molecule so minute it cannot be seen with a microscope: transfer factor.
2. Additionally, transfer factor enables all animal mothers to pass their lifetime "database" on encounters with infective agents to their newborn offspring: This is an instant immune system for the chick, calf, or human child, who would otherwise have to develop an immune database the hard way, through infection.
Mammals, for example, pass on transfer factor via the colostrum in their very first breast milk; and egg laying species pass it on within the yolk of the egg. While the baby's digestive system would break down larger molecules, and anything as big as a whole immune cell, the transfer factor molecule is so tiny it can pass through the gut lining and into the blood unaltered.
3. Transfer factor molecules have also proven to be essentially identical among different species, and therefore capable of communicating immune system knowledge from species to species. Supplement makers have developed ways to extract highly filtered and purified, nonallergenic, transfer factor from plentiful sources – such as the colostrum of cows that have just calved, and the yolks of hens' eggs.
This is useful because animals and humans share potential exposure to many of the same organisms in air, water, ingested foods, soil, and animal waste products – E. coli bacteria being just one example. Studies demonstrate that this supplement-provided transfer factor does communicate immune data to human immune systems, and some studies have measured significant increases in Natural Killer Cell activity associated with transfer factor supplementation.1,2
The Natural Killer Cell is another kind of T-cell that earns its name by seeking and destroying cells that are infected by microbes – not the microbes themselves – through direct contact. Many research studies have shown that Natural Killer Cell activity is often abnormally low in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia patients.
4. And finally, researchers have begun studying the benefits for some individuals of supplementation with "targeted" transfer factor – produced when the animal source of the transfer factor is "primed" via exposure to specific organisms.
An Italian study of women with recurrent non-bacterial cystitis who seemed to have an impaired cellular immune response to Candida (yeast) and/or herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections found a significantly improved cystitis relapse rate during six months of supplementation with Candida/HSV-targeted transfer factor.3 Non-bacterial cystitis (also known as painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis and by other names) is frequently diagnosed in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients of both sexes.4,5,6
Overall, while drugs such as antibiotics tend to work instead of the immune system, transfer factor supports the immune system.
1. "The influence of age on Transfer factor treatment of cellular immunodeficiency, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or chronic viral infections," www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm/id/3708
2. "Transfer factors: Identification of conserved sequences in transfer factor molecules,". ProHealth.com
3. "Use of Transfer factor for the treatment of recurrent non-bacterial female cystitis (NRBC): A preliminary report," by C. De Vinci, et al., Biotherapy, 1996:9(1-3):133-8 September 1996. See also "Lessons from a pilot study of Transfer factor in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,"
4. "The relationship between Fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis," www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm/ID/1139
5. "Systemic aspects of interstitial cystitis, immunology and linkage with autoimmune disorders," http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm/ID/5223
6. "Physiopathologic relationship between interstitial cystitis and rheumatic, autoimmune, and chronic inflammatory diseases," www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm/id/5648 .
Note: The information provided here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Consult your physician for medical advice, and please remember never to change your medical or healthcare regime without discussing it first with your doctor.