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Two double-blind placebo-controlled trials enrolling children with frequent respiratory infections, such as colds , found that treatment with thymus extract reduced the rate of infection. 1 In theory, this might indicate an immune-boosting effect. However, small studies cannot provide reliable proof that a treatment is effective. Weak evidence from a rather convoluted trial hints that thymus extract may also be helpful for preventing respiratory infections in adults. 2
Intensive athletic training can suppress immune function and lead to colds, as well. However, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 60 athletes failed to find any significant evidence of benefit with thymus extract. 3 Preliminary evidence hints that thymus extracts may be helpful for food allergies , 4 asthma , 5 hay fever , 6 and eczema . If thymus extract really does help these conditions, it may do so not by boosting the immune system, but rather by calming it down and causing it to behave more normally.
Small double-blind trials of thymus extract for hepatitis B and C found marginal benefits at most. 7 8 9 Injectable forms of whole thymus extract or chemicals contained in it have been studied as a treatment for numerous other conditions, including cancer , cold sores , dermatomyositis, eczema , genital warts, hepatitis , HIV infection , leukopenia (low white cell count), multiple sclerosis , psoriasis , respiratory infections , rheumatoid arthritis , scleroderma , and shingles (herpes zoster) . 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 The results of these studies have been mixed. In any case, trials involving injected thymus cannot be considered applicable to oral thymus products.
- Fiocchi A, Borella E, Riva E, Arensi D, Travaglini P, Cazzola P, Giovannini M. A double-blind clinical trial for the evaluation of the therapeutical effectiveness of a calf thymus derivative (Thymomodulin) in children with recurrent respiratory infections. Thymus. 8(6):331-9.
- Vettori G, Lazzaro A, Mazzanti P, Cazzola P. [Prevention of recurrent respiratory infections in adults] Minerva Med. 78(17):1281-9.
- Garagiola U, Buzzetti M, Cardella E, Confalonieri F, Giani E, Polini V, Ferrante P, Mancuso R, Montanari M, Grossi E. Immunological patterns during regular intensive training in athletes: quantification and evaluation of a preventive pharmacological approach. J Int Med Res. 23(2):85-95.
- Cavagni G, Piscopo E, Rigoli E, Iuliano P, Bertolini P, Cazzola P. "Food allergy in children: an attempt to improve the effects of the elimination diet with an immunomodulating agent (thymomodulin). A double-blind clinical trial". Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 11(1):131-42.
- Bagnato A, Brovedani P, Comina P, Molinaro P, Scalzo C, Triolo VA, Milani G. Long-term treatment with thymomodulin reduces airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. Ann Allergy. 62(5):425-8.
- Marzari R, Mazzanti P, Cazzola P, Pirodda E. Perennial allergic rhinitis: prevention of the acute episodes with Thymomodulin. Minerva Med 1987;78:1675-1681.
- Civeira MP, Castilla A, Morte S, et al. A pilot study of thymus extract in chronic non-A, non-B hepatitis. Aliment Pharmacol Therap. 1989;3:395-401.
- Bortolotti F, Cadrobbi P, Crivellaro C, et al. Effect of an orally administered thymic derivative, thymomodulin, in chronic type B hepatitis in children. Curr Ther Res.1988;43:67-72.
- Galli M, Crocchiolo P, Negri C, Caredda F, Lazzarin A, Moroni M. Attempt to treat acute type B hepatitis with an orally administered thymic extract (thymomodulin): preliminary results. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 11(9):665-9.
- Skotnicki AB. Therapeutic application of calf thymus extract (TFX). Med Oncol Tumor Pharmacother. 6(1):31-43.
- Leung DY, Hirsch RL, Schneider L, Moody C, Takaoka R, Li SH, Meyerson LA, Mariam SG, Goldstein G, Hanifin JM. Thymopentin therapy reduces the clinical severity of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 85(5):927-33.
- Beall G, Kruger S, Morales F, Imagawa D, Goldsmith JA, Fisher D, Steinberg J, Phair J, Whaling S, Bitran J. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of thymostimulin in symptomatic HIV-infected patients. AIDS. 4(7):679-81.
- Harper JI, Mason UA, White TR, Staughton RC, Hobbs JR. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of thymostimulin (TP-1) for the treatment of atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol. 125(4):368-72.
- Roullet E, Cesaro P, Simon-Lavoine N, Degos JD, Marteau R. Nonathymulin treatment of multiple sclerosis: double-blind pilot study. Acta Neurol Scand. 80(6):575-8.
- Fransen L, Anthoons J, Hoogewijs G, Bolla K. Thymopentin treatment in genital warts of long duration. Cancer Detect Prev. 12(1-6):503-9.
- Malaise M, Franchimont P, Hauwaert C, Danneskiold-Samsoe B, Gross D, Gerber H, Gerschpacher H, Bolla K. Confirmative study of the effectiveness of thymopentin in active rheumatoid arthritis. Surv Immunol Res. 4 Suppl 1():87-93.