A 55-year-old Spanish woman dies after suffering from stroke and multiple organ failures resulting from the live bee venom used in acupuncture.
The procedure called apitherapy is the process of using substances from honeybees in the form of honey, royal jelly, or venom to relieve medical symptoms.
Regarding the case of the deceased patient, she received apitherapy once a month within a two-year period for chronic stress and muscle pain. However, during her last session, she experienced difficulty in breathing, wheezing, and loss of consciousness. Reports noted that the woman did not have any adverse reaction from the therapy.
Deadly Bee Sting
Apitherapy has long been used as traditional medicine in China, Korea, Indonesia, and some parts of Latin America. A case published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology concluded, however, that live bee sting could be fatal.
"The risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits, leading us to conclude that this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable," reported Paula Vázquez-Revuelta and Ricardo Madrigal-Burgaleta, medical specialists from the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital in Spain.
The study did not cite the exact cause of the woman's death, but the researchers said there could have been a deadly allergic reaction considering the continued use of the bee venom.
The Journal confirmed it is the first death of apitherapy ever reported to the authorities.
How Apitherapy Works
A person who undergoes therapy is given a live bee sting harvested by pinching the insect until the venom comes out. The sting is then inserted into the skin, and the bee gradually dies.
A bee's sting contains a natural anti-inflammatory chemical called melittin, which has been used to treat arthritis. However, no evidence has ever been presented to substantially support this claim.
Chances of adverse allergic reactions are more probable if live bee venom is administered on a long-term basis. A severe reaction may include anaphylaxis, which is the sudden significant drop in the blood pressure, leading to the swelling of the airway and ultimately, death.
Prior to the woman's death, she was given epinephrine, steroids, and antihistamines to reduce the allergic side effects. Unfortunately, she suffered from a stroke and major organs failed.
A related study by PLOS One in 2015 reported that acupuncture using bee sting increases the risk of adverse events by 261 percent compared to a typical saline injection.
Experts suggest that individuals who prefer alternative medicine should stick to traditional acupuncture and divert from using bee venom to prevent severe adverse effects in the long run.