A to Z of MS
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A to Z of MS Bee venom therapy
Apitherapy is the medicinal use of bees or bee products.
Apitherapy has a long history and some people advocate its use in the management of multiple sclerosis. The theory is that bee stings provoke inflammation causing the immune system to produce an anti-inflammatory response that benefits people with a range of conditions including MS.
Therapy involves an individual receiving up to 40 stings in a session. Ice is used to numb the skin and to reduce the pain. There may be more than one session per week.
Some people can experience a severe, potentially life threatening, allergic reaction to bee stings, and appropriate medication should be immediately to hand for anyone undergoing this therapy.
There is very little medical research evidence to support bee venom therapy. In 2005 a clinical trial was conducted in the Netherlands. Researchers compared 13 people receiving the therapy every week for 24 weeks with 13 people receiving no treatment. Results were measured using MRI scans, relapse rate, disability, fatigue and quality of life scales. At the end of the study, no difference was found between the two groups on any of these measures.
A further small study looked at safety and efficacy of bee venom in people with progressive forms of MS. Although this preliminary study suggests safety, because of the small numbers studied, there were no definite conclusions regarding efficacy and therefore there was little evidence to support the use of honeybee venom in the treatment of MS.
In 2008, a comprehensive overview of the most frequently encountered non-conventional approaches tested for MS, concluded that there was only marginal supportive evidence for bee venom therapy (BVT). The inability to identify and quantify the active component of BVT, combined with the associated risk of anaphylaxis, had deterred its widespread use.
Namaka M, et al.
Examining the evidence: complementary adjunctive therapies for multiple sclerosis.
Neurol Res. 2008;30(7):710-9.
Wesselius T, et al.
A randomised crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis.
Castro HJ, et al.
A phase I study of the safety of honeybee venom extract as a possible treatment for patients with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.
Allergy & Asthma Proceedings 2005;26(6):470-476.
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