Transfer Factor (TF) is a substance present in colostrum, a mother's first milk. Although its exact chemical composition is not yet known it appears to contain several lymphokine molecules with immune-modulating properties.
TF acts to transfer immune knowledge from a mother to her baby. It appears to transfer information to T-lymphocytes (major immune cells) about specific pathogens, priming them to destroy the pathogens should they be encountered. Essentially transfer factor provides the immune system with the programming it needs to effectively defend against whatever threat it may be presented with. It also regulates immune activity in a more general way and may help to reduce over-activity, as in allergies and auto-immune conditions.
Transfer factor has been studied for over 50 years but only recently has its importance been recognized. Studies have shown promising results in the treatment of viral, parasitic, fungal infections and allergic disorders, as well as immune-deficiency conditions and even certain types of cancer.
As well as conferring "immune memory" to protect against a multitude of pathogens, this highly potent chemical messenger has been shown to greatly increase numbers of natural killer cells, the immune system's first line of defense. Low NK cell count is a common finding in environmental illness sufferers, particularly chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Low NK cell count is well established in ME/CFS, a largely poorly understood illness where study findings are often contradictory.
As transfer factor regulates immune responses it may also provide increased energy and mood since the immune, nervous and hormonal systems are closely connected.
Transfer Factor molecules are often antigen-specific, meaning they tell the immune system to target specific pathogens. You will therefore find TF nutritional supplements designed for example, specific viruses such as Epstein-Barr (EBV) or cytomegalovirus (CMV). It is important therefore to have lab tests conducted to determine if you have a specific infection or choose a product with a more general immune-modulating action.