More MS news articles for Aug 2001

MSAA Funds Scientific Study

18 July 2001

Through a $375,000 research grant, MSAA becomes the first MS organization in the country to release funds for the human scientific study under FDA-approved guidelines of honeybee (Apis melittin) venom therapy as a treatment for MS.

The Phase I study, being conducted at Georgetom University Medical Center in Washington DC, will examine the safely and tolerance of honeybee venom extracts as a possible therapy for patients with progressive MS.

The study began on August 9, 2000 under the direction of Joseph A. Bellanti, director of the Georgetown Medical Center's Immunology Department. Progressive MS patients are receiving two injections per week of honeybee venom extract for one year. Each study participant is undergoing monthly evaluations for safety and tolerance of the treatment.

Progressive multiple sclerosis clients have few treatment choices, some of which are expiramental and pose serious health risks. In recent years, thousands of MS clients have reported siginificant symptom relief through the alternative practice of bee venom therapy (BVT.) For centuries BVT has been practiced in many eastern countries including China, Japan, and Korea. The therapy involved repeated stings from honeybees to various parts of the body.

BVT is practiced by MS clients and by those who suffer from arthritis and other degenerative diseases. MS clients engaged in BVT receive 25 to 30 honeybee stings per session, and average more than 3,000 yearly stings. Under these conditions, it is impossible to measure how accurately how much extract is delivered, or how safely the the stings are being administered.

The study will determine does-response relationships by giving known quantities of honeybee venom in calculated increasing doses.

"With so many people stinging themeselves, it's very haphazard. By performing this study, we hope to give some level of scientific basis for dosage and potential side effects," explains Dr. Bellanti.

"We came to this study with bee venom because of the widespread use for the treatment of MS. As far as I am concerned, there are two kinds of research: good research and bad research. Good research asks valid questions and is conducted using proper methodology," he notes. "It's hard to argue with preset biases. As scientists and medical professionals, we need to keep an open mind in order to help our patients. In the beginning I thought it was a little strange. But after researching it, I found that there are definate immunological changes the body undergoes after bee venom therapy. So I thought it might not be so far-fetched. How do we find out if it really works, unless we investigate it in a scientific way?"

If Phase I of the study proves promising, Dr. Bellanti hopes to work on a second phase double blind study, where some MS patients receive bee venom and others receive a placebo. "The best outcome would be that bee venom therapy could become a safe alternative treatment for progressive MS patients," says Dr. Bellanti. "We are very excited with the prospect, but we don't want to give a false hope. While we hope it will be efficacious, we have to wait and see what it shows."