The possibility of stimulating immune function by natural means is a major focus of current interest among practitioners of both allopathic medicine and complementary medicine. Several herbal compounds, including Echinacea and Andrographis, are finding a role in the treatment of immunodefidency or as agents to enhance immunity, to prevent infection and even contribute to longevity. 1
The use of colostrum as a promoter of health and well-being has been recognized for centuries and its use is deeply rooted in the act of “filial piety’ in Ancient Chinese Culture.
The use of natural agents such as immune globulins or other products that are produced by the immune System of mammals has been the focus of intense research in recent times. The idea of providing passive immunity with immune globulin that is administered by injection is a well-defined medical intervention for the prevention of viral disease. A common example is the use of gamma globulin for the prevention of hepatitis A virus infection. Other products of the immune system that are candidates for use in medical treatment include interferon and molecules that can transfer “immune phenomena” from a donor to a recipient. An example of this latter process is the use of transfer factor (TF), an agent that can transfer cell-mediated immunity by the use of soluble factors that are produced by lymphocytes.
It is known that TF is contained within certain leukocyte fractions and such fractions have been used for the adoptive transfer of antigen-specific, cell-mediated immunity in animals and humans. 2,3 Antigen-specific TF can also be obtained from colostrum or milk that is secreted by the mammary gland of a mammal that has been exposed to a variety of environmental antigens. The idea that a fraction of colostrum contains TF that can be administered to transfer cell-mediated immunity is very intriguing given the widespread availability of colostrum of bovine origin and the establishment of techniques for the collection of concentrates of TF and its purification for use as a dietary supplement.
Immunoglobulins in Cow’s Colostrum and Milk
A body of literature has appeared over the past 10 years that suggests that immunoglobulins (IgG) of various types have the potential for the treatment or prevention of infectious diarrhea in human clinical trials. 4-5,6 Several studies have shown the protective effects of antibodies in cows milk against enteric infection in several different species of mammal. 7 The use of IgG in colostrum as an immunoprophylactic or therapeutic agent is a very important issue for the standardization of colostrum used in dietary supplements. For example, high temperature sterilized milk has little if any measurable IgG. 8 Companies that sell colostrum as a dietarv supplement are obligated to provide evidence of the presence of IgG in colostrums if they are suggesting that their supplement has immune protective or enhancing effects. Few companies that make colostrum have provided evidence that they have retained IgG in their products. Symbiotics, a corporation in Sedona, Arizona, has recently presented data on their product that was researched at the University of Osaga in New Zealand (Wyatt, D., personal communication).
Symbiotics has shown that the product that they market under the brand ‘New Life Colostrum’ contains measurable antibody activity against Candida albicans, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli (0157:H7), Haemophilus influenzae, Helicobacter pylori, Klebsietia pneumoniae, Listeria monocytogenes, Propionibacterium acnes, Streptacoccus agalactiae, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enteritidis, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus pyogenes, Salmonella typhimuirum, and Yersinia enterocolitica. These microorganisms cause a vast array of serious infectious diseases which can be life threatening.
Of particular interest in the Symbiotics study is the antibody activity against Candida albicans (the organism at the basis of the “yeast connection”) and the impressive activity against the bacteria that cause enteric infections. We cannot lose sight of important studies that show that bovine colostrum is capable of treating diarrhea in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients, with the immunoglobulins found in bovine colostrum. 9 The focus of this article is primarily to discuss the implications of transfer factor, but these data show the potent and versatile potential of bovine colostrum in the treatment of disease. In the face of mounting concerns about resistance of pathogenic bacteria to antibiotics, natural therapies provide very interesting alternative and complementary treatment options. Other factors play a major role in the potential efficacy of colostrum and arguments prevail about the IgG content of various types of colostrum. The Symbiotics studies measured the immunoglobulin of G-type by ELISA, whereas other measurements have used different quantitative techniques. The antibacterial activity of any colostrum may not necessarily correlate with its immuno-lobulin content. With this in mind, researchers at Symbiotics have looked at the direct ability of the colostrum to inhibit the growth of various bacteria in culture and the results obtained overall mirror the observations of antibody activity against the various microorganisms.