Bee Venom Therapy is the use of bee venom to treat diseases using a live bee or bee venom injection. Honeybee venom is produced by two glands associated with the sting apparatus of worker bees. 88 percent of venom is water. The fructose, glucose, and phospholipid contents of venom are similar to those in bee’s blood. Atleast eighteen pharmacologically active components have been described, including several peptides amines and enzymes.
While snake venom is coagulant, bee venom is hemorrhagic. A honey bee can inject 0.1 mg of venom via its stinger. Before the treatment, person are tested for any sensitivity towards the venom. For this, a underdose of bee venom is injected into the body and the patient is then observed overnight. When and if the injectable bee venom can be legally used by physicians, the same therapy is used as with the live bee. The similarly amount of venom (one bee is equal to approximately 0.1 mg pure dry bee venom) can be injected with a needle intradermally to imitate the live bee, and it produces the similar effects.
Bee Venom Therapy and Disease
Historically, bee venom was administered with live bees by stimulating them to sting in the affected area, trigger points or acupuncture points. Depending on the nature of the illness, the standardized venom can be used in a cream, ointment or liniment, injection form. Next to the effect of a live bee, injectable venom solution is considered to be a standard procedure to apply bee venom. The application of venom solution with ultrasonophoresis or electrophoresis is practiced in China and Europe.
Subcutaneous use of bee venom seems to be effective for bee sting desensitization in individuals with severe allergy to bee stings. Bee venom injections subcutaneously or by live bee stings are thought to stimulate an allergenic response, reduces leukocyte sensitivity to the allergen, and increases the number of T-suppressor cells. Bee venom is approved by the FDA for the therapy of severe allergies to bee sting. This therapy usually provides 99% protection from allergic reactions to bee stings. Once bee venom therapy is stopped, the risk of an allergic reaction over the next 5 to 10 years is approximately 5% to 15%.
Melittin, a 26-residue peptide, is the important component and activity unit of bee venom, exhibits highly and extensive biological action in anti-inflammatory, antiarthritis, analgesia, anti-radiation, anti-viral and antibacterial, as well as effect on heart-blood vessel. Bee venom contains a compound named apamin which enhances long term synaptic transmission and dopamine which helps increase motor activity. The most important characteristic of bee venom is the presence of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which along with the peptide apamin, facilitate nerve transmission and amelioration in conditions involving nerve disorders. This gives venom the capability to travel along neural pathways from the spine, to several trigger points, and injured areas to help repair nerve damage and restore mobility. Additionally bee venom contains a component known as adolapin, which is both anti-inflammatory and pain-blocking. Especially significant is bee venom’s stimulation on the adrenals through these substances, leading to the increase production of natural hormone cortisol, the major form of natural steroid use by the body, which has important effect in improving pain and immunity. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland and is known as the stress hormone.
The venom of Apis mellifera has been used for arthritis for over 2000 years, and many identified components of bee venom contain strong anti-inflammatory effects. Most recently Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Germany, South America and others have used bee venom to treat different chronic inflammatory ailments. Melittin causes the body to produce cortisol, which is an agent of the body’s own healing process. As an anti-inflammatory agent, melittin is 100 times more potent than hydrocortisone. That is why the bee venom therapy may be beneficial in treating inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
A team of researchers in South Korea performed an research into the molecular mechanisms behind bee venom’s therapeutic effect on rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic, inflammatory illness. The November 2004 edition of “Arthritis and Rheumatism” presents their insights into melittin, a important component of bee venom and a strong anti-inflammatory agent. Also, an analysis of studies by researchers from the “University of Exeter” found bee venom contained compounds that may alleviate joint pain. Christopher Kim (medical director of the Monmouth Pain Institute in Red Bank), who has administered apitherapy to 3000 people, reported a 2-year study on 108 osteoarthritis and rheumatoid patients who had not responded to standard therapies. Starting with twice-weekly injections, he gradually increased the number of shots until the participants developed significantly. Many patients demonstrated healing after an mean of 12 injections.
Bee venom (apitoxin) has been used in the therapy of some immune-related diseases, as well as in recent times in treatment of tumors. Different cancer cells, including liver, renal, lung, bladder, prostate, and mammary cancer cells as well as leukemia cells, can be targets of bee venom peptides such as melittin and phospholipase A2. The cell cytotoxic activity through the activation of PLA2 by melittin have been suggested to be the important mechanism for the anti-cancer effect of Bee venom. Melittin is a basic component of bee venom. Researchers in Australia have changed the structure of the melittin molecule by removing the part that causes allergic reactions in some patients, keeping its cell-killing activity, and combining the molecule with an antibody to target cancer cells. Using this method, researchers have been able to show some anti-cancer effect in studies using mice. According to study done at “Washington University in St Louis“, bee venom is capable of being engineered to target tumours and cancer cells. After 4 to 5 injections of the nano-bees, the breast-cancer tumors were 25% smaller, and the melanoma tumors were 88% smaller, compared with untreated mice. If the bee venom had been injected into the bloodstream in its normal method it would have lead to the destruction of red blood cells. But, following the injection of the modified nano-bees the blood count of mice was normal, and they demonstrated no signs of organ damage. The nanobees are tiny enough to pass readily through blood and attach to cells however, big enough to ferry drugs into the body.
Also been shown that bee venom is a powerful immunological agent and stimulates the body’s protective mechanisms against illness. Bee venom contains a strong toxin melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown. The result is an serious step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Beyond prevention in the form of a vaginal gel, also sees potential for using nanoparticles with melittin as treatment for existing HIV infections, particularly those that are medication-resistant. The nanoparticles could be injected intravenously and, in theory, would be able to clear HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) from the blood stream.
Bee Venom Therapy practitioners need to be mindful because bee venom it may cause a patient to have an allergic reaction, which may vary from slight reddening of the skin to a life threatening situation with difficulty breathing. Bee venom is usually administered subcutaneously. The most common side effects including local erythema, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site are to bee venom therapy. Less common side effects ranging from itching, malaise edema, urticaria, flu-like symptoms, and anxiety to anaphylaxis occur in approximately 20% of people. Side effects most frequently occur during the dose enhance phase of immunotherapy, especially with rapid dose increases.