Apitherapy (bee venom therapy) is the medicinal use of bees or bee products. There is no research to show it is an effective treatment for people with MS.
Therapy with bee venom involves receiving up to 40 stings in a session. Ice is used to numb the skin and to reduce pain. There may be more than one session per week. The theory behind the treatment is that bee stings cause inflammation. This leads to an anti-inflammatory response by the immune system. It is suggested that this benefits people with a range of conditions including MS.
There has been very little medical research to support bee venom therapy. In 2005 a small clinical trial compared people having the therapy every week with a group that had no treatment. Results were measured using MRI scans, relapse rate, disability, fatigue and quality of life scales. After 24 weeks, no difference was found between the two groups on any of these measures.
Another small study looked at the use of honeybee venom with people with progressive MS. Although this study found the therapy was safe, the small number of people involved meant it was not possible to draw conclusions about whether it was effective.
In 2008, a review of non-conventional approaches to treating MS found that there was only marginal evidence for bee venom therapy. In 2014, in a review of the evidence, the American Academy of Neurology concluded that bee venom therapy is possibly ineffective for relapses, disability, fatigue, lesion burden and health related quality of life (QoL).
Some people can have a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction to bee stings. Anyone undergoing this therapy should have appropriate antihistamine (anti-allergy) drugs immediately to hand.
- Neurology 2014;82(12):1083-1092. Summary Summary of evidence-based guideline: complementary medicine in multiple sclerosis: report of the guideline development subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology.
- Neurological Research 2008;30(7):710-719. Summary Examining the evidence: complementary adjunctive therapies for multiple sclerosis.
- Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 2005;26(6):470-476. Summary A phase I study of the safety of honeybee venom extract as a possible treatment for patients with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.
- Neurology 2005;6(11):1764-1768. Summary A randomized crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis.