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Transfer factor and AIDS.

Transfer factor and AIDS

In the search for an AIDS treatment, researchers have triedalready available agents, designed new chemical entities and rummaged through libraries of drugs shelved because they failed other purposes. Bruce L. Wolf and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee in Memphis tried transfer factor, an as-yet-uncharacterized molecule or molecules contained in white blood cells. While their small pilot study showed it is not likely to be of much help against full-blown AIDS, Wolf says the results indicate transfer factor may be worth investigating as a treatment for AIDS-related complex (ARC), a condition marked by many of the same symptoms as AIDS and which frequently leads to AIDS.

Transfer factor was first isolated in the 1950s and canapparently transfer immunity to infectious diseases from one person to another. The substance has a few fans among researchers who have used it to treat a variety of conditions, including chickenpox and chronic active hepatitis. But perhaps because no one is sure just what it is, transfer factor has never really caught on as a therapeutic agent.

Wolf and his associates collected transfer factor from healthyindividuals and injected it into 10 people with AIDS. Because of their immune system suppression, all 10 had previously failed to respond to a test in which skin is exposed to five allergenic substances. After treatment with transfer factor, five of the people developed skin reactions to one or more of the substances.

One other person responded strongly to all of them, but, saysWolf, he "was different to begin with.' He started out with more CD4 cells, key immune system cells that are usually severely depleted in people with AIDS. "We feel transfer factor by itself is likely not effective for most patients,' Wolf says. But people with ARC have just slightly low CD4 levels, and for them, he says, transfer factor has the potential of being helpful.

The findings support a Feb. 6 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICANMEDICAL ASSOCIATION report from the Cleveland Clinic describing the development of at least some immune response in six of seven AIDS patients treated with a lower dose of transfer factor than what Wolf and his colleagues used. The Cleveland Clinic researchers collected their transfer factor from healthy individuals and people with antibodies to the AIDS virus and swollen lymph glands, but not AIDS or ARC.
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Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 7, 1987
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