Multiple Sclerosis :: Bee Sting Therapy and Multiple Sclerosis

Bee sting therapy is not effective in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), and does not improve quality of life, according to the first controlled study to investigate the alternative treatment in MS patients.

Patients with MS should not undergo bee venom therapy “unless better evidence to justify its use becomes available,” warn Dr. Jacques De Keyser of the University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands and colleagues in the journal Neurology this month.

The popularity of the therapy for MS, frequently administered by practitioners without medical training or licensing, is on the rise, the authors note. But claims for its effectiveness are anecdotal and the treatment carries the risk of a fatal allergic reaction.

“Bee sting therapy is a form of alternative treatment that has gained a great deal of publicity and loyalty among MS patients,” De Keyser said. “It’s popular throughout the world, including the United States and Canada, west and east Europe, and Asia. It’s also a lucrative business for some beekeepers. Patients typically get 20 bee stings three times weekly.

For their study, the team randomly assigned 26 patients to 24 weeks of bee sting therapy under medical supervision, followed by 24 weeks without treatment, or to the same regimen in the reverse order. Patients received the therapy three times per week. The number of stings administered at each treatment was increased gradually, up to 20, while patients were tested and monitored for allergic reactions.

Magnetic resonance imaging studies showed no difference between treatment and no treatment in the number of new MS-related lesions or in the size of existing lesions. Bee sting therapy also had no benefit in terms of disability, fatigue or quality of life.

“Physicians can now, in an evidence-based manner, advise their patients with MS not to start with bee sting therapy,” De Keyser told.

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