Transfer Factor, does and over the counter product work? by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
April 12 2016

Transfer factor is an immune system stimulant derived from white blood cells. Proponents claim transfer factor has anti germ activity. They also claim transfer factor may be beneficial in bronchial asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome.

I have not studied transfer factor in enough detail to have an opinion on it at this time. However, my initial reaction is that it would be difficult for a vitamin company to come up with a genuine transfer factor since it may be difficult to make this molecule in a laboratory. Therefore, for the time being, any vitamin company selling transfer factor needs to be looked at skeptically. If you would like to learn about supplements that have been studied for the immune system, visit the web page.

Folia Biol (Praha). 2013. Transfer factor: an overlooked potential for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Transfer factor (TF) is a low-molecular-weight lymphocyte extract capable of transferring antigen-specific cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to T lymphocytes. It has been used successfully as an adjuvant or primary therapy for viral, parasitic, fungal, and some bacterial infections, as well as immunodeficiencies, neoplasias, allergies and autoimmune diseases. From the list of infections that seem to respond noticeably to transfer factor, those due to viruses of the herpes family are particularly remarkable. Indeed, for these viruses it was shown that TF can prevent infection or relapse, acting as a CMI vaccine. Data also suggest its possible use for adjuvant treatment and probably prevention of two currently widespread infections: tuberculosis and AIDS. Furthermore, TF has an interesting potential: answering the challenge from unknown pathogenic agents, a black box effect permitting production of antigen-specific TF to a new pathogen, even before its identification. It thus seems that the preventative potential of transfer factor is as important as its therapeutic one, both discussed in this review.

Transfer Factor Research
Transfer factor in the age of molecular biology: a review.
Biotherapy. 1996.
Current data suggests that the transferring of immunologically specific information by transfer factor molecules requires interaction with a cell that has been genetically programmed to be antigen reactive but at the time of interaction is unprimed. Contact with transfer factor molecules would allow a naive recipient, on a first encounter with antigen, to make a secondary rather than a primary immunological response. Transfer factor molecules for each and every antigenic determinant are thus necessary. Transfer factors made from animals or humans are capable of transferring antigen specificity across a species barrier. Even primitive species have cells from which one can make transfer factors. The molecules are, therefore, well conserved and it is reasonable to suggest that they are important for normal immunological functioning. Proposed mechanisms of action must explain the fact that transfer factors obtained from the cells of high responder animals are capable of transferring delayed hypersensitivity to low responder animals while the reverse is not true. Transfer factor molecules are likely to interact with the variable regions of the alpha and/or beta chain of T cell receptors to change their avidity and affinity for antigen in a way that otherwise would only occur after an encounter with antigen.

The use of transfer factors in chronic fatigue syndrome: prospects and problems.
Biotherapy. 1996. Levine PH. Viral Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a heterogeneous disorder characterized by severe prolonged unexplained fatigue and a variety of associated symptoms such as arthralgias, myalgias, cognitive dysfunction, and severe sleep disturbances. Many patients initially present with an acute onset of apparent infectious origin with either an upper respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, fever, chills, tender lymphadenopathy, and malaise suggestive of a flu-like illness. In some cases, specific viral infections can be identified at the outset, particularly herpes viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Transfer factors (TF) with specific activity against these herpes viruses has been documented. With some studies suggesting that persistent viral activity may play a role in perpetuation of CFS symptoms, there appears to be a rationale for the use of TF in patients with CFS and recent reports have suggested that transfer factor may play a beneficial role in this disorder.

Structural nature and functions of transfer factors.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993. Kirkpatrick CH.
Conrad D. Stephenson Laboratory for Research in Immunology, National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, Colorado 80206.
Transfer factors are molecules that "educate" recipients to express cell-mediated immunity. This effect is antigen-specific. The most consistent effects of transfer factors on the immune system are expression of delayed-type hypersensitivity and production of lymphokines such as macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), which is probably identical to gamma-interferon in response to exposure to antigen. Transfer factors bind to antigens in an immunologically specific manner. This discovery has enabled us to isolate individual transfer factors from mixtures that contain several transfer factors. This reactivity probably explains the specificity of individual transfer factors, and it has provided a method for purification of individual transfer factors to apparent homogeneity. The purified materials are immunologically active and antigen-specific. They have molecular weights of approximately 5,000 Da and appear to be composed entirely of amino acids. Transfer factors appear to offer a novel means of molecular immunotherapy for certain patients with defective cell-mediated immunity.

Giancarlo Pizza, MD, of Bologna, Italy has studied the use of transfer factor in the treatment of renal cell and other kinds of cancer.

Q. Hope you are doing good and all is well. I wonder have you heard of product called Transfer Factor from 4life dot com. I have tried it (Transfer Factor E-XF Advance and Transfer Factor Plus Advance). They both are good but i found that the Plus Advance is expensive and gave a detox effect and i didn't like it, but E-XF is excellent without any side effects. Later i came to know by more research that Plus Advance has IP-6 in it which might be causing the detox side effect that i hate. Anyway TF E-XF is a little cheaper as well and i take it twice or thrice a week. It gives me great energy, mental clarity, quick repair from exercise and i feel my immune system has gone fantastic since last two months as i have started taking the TF E-XF Advance. It has transfer factors from hi grade bovine colostrum and barn laid country egg's yolks and thats all, no other ingredients.
   A. Naming this product Transfer Factor rouses my suspicions.

Q. I found a partial response from Ray Sahelian, M.D to someone re: transfer factor product - but the link ended. Can you refer me or show me a way to search newsletter archive? I am interested to know about this product and its claims - it's been hard to find "independent" research.
   A. Besides being suspicious, we don't have any hard evidence at this time regarding the over the counter promotion of transfer factor products.