February 24, 2004
Last year John J. Kaiser's couldn't walk and his left leg was stiff with paralysis, numb to any sensation.
Today, Kaiser, a Vero Beach resident who has multiple sclerosis, is still bedridden but he can now lift his leg limb without help.
He credits bees.
Honeybees in fact. His wife, Li-Eva Kaiser, has been stinging him with more than 100 bees a week since May .
"There's an underground movement in this country that says bee venom helps treat MS (multiple sclerosis)," said Joseph A. Bellanti, director of the Immunology Center at Georgetown University, who since 2000 has been conducting the first controlled study of the therapy.
For the past half-century, theories of bee venom relieving multiple sclerosis symptoms have been floating around folk medicine circles. Advocates maintain that bee venom contains an anti-inflammatory substance that activates the body's adrenal glands to boost the immune system.
With multiple sclerosis the immune system and nervous system progressively deteriorate. Conventional medical doctors say there is no cure.
So far the bee venom treatment has not been scientifically proven to effectively treat multiple sclerosis, but Bellanti's initial findings in the Multiple Sclerosis Association-backed study show that more than 40 percent of the small group of people he studied experienced significant improvement.
"They swore by it," he said.
And so do the Kaisers.
"I would sting him and there wouldn't even be a reaction," said Li-Eva Kaiser of when she started stinging her husband in May. Now he can feel her fingers tickle the soles of his feet.
"Even the big toe is moving. There is improvement. His fatigue is gone and his speech is improved," she said.
Under a mixture of alternative treatments, Li-Eva Kaiser has watched her husband make slow but steady gains, whereas with conventional treatments, she only saw deterioration.
Years of steroid treatment, a more widely accepted multiple sclerosis therapy, only treated the surface symptoms and not the deeper problems, she said. She watched her husband's face turn gaunt, his skin grow sores and his eyes glaze over as he slipped into an unconscious state.
"They told me to bring him to a nursing home, but I went against everybody's orders. I brought him home," she said.
At home, she started her husband on a high-fiber, low sugar detoxification diet. His mind came back and his sores disappeared.
"He's as healthy as they come," she said. But the pain, numbness, stiffness were still there, beckoning them to try bee venom.
In each stinging session, Li-Eva Kaiser takes two buzzing bees at a time, holding them with tweezers next to her husband's skin until they inject their venom-filled stingers.
After having success with his left leg, she now stings him on the back, saturating his spine with more than 30 bee stingers per session. Once the bees sting, they die.
The Kaisers get their bees from Brent Gardella, of Vero Beach, who also has multiple sclerosis. When Gardella, 51, decided to give bees a try last spring, a Fort Pierce beekeeper, Mike Harrison, gave Gardella a hive to keep in his backyard.
The first month of the stinging was nearly unbearable, Gardella said.
"I would wake up in the middle of the night and my arms would be on fire. This is definitely not for the faint of heart," he said. But after a few weeks he built up a tolerance to the venom and the itchiness subsided.
At first, Gardella admitted, he didn't think the bees would make a difference.
"But I was shocked," he said. "I get bad fatigue from MS but it's literally gone now. I had good results right off."
The Kaisers and Gardella may have had success, but Arney Rosenblat, a spokeswoman for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, cautioned against putting too much faith in bees.
"We don't want someone looking for a magic bullet in bee stinging," Rosenblat said. "Anytime you have a disease where there is no cure, there's a lot of desperation. People will try everything."
While the National Multiple Sclerosis Society isn't against bee venom therapy, Rosenblat warned of the side effects for people with bee venom allergies.
"There's a real risk of inducing severe anaphylactic shock," said Dr. Jeffrey Horstmyer, director of the MS Center of Miami. He warned of the dangers of foregoing scientifically proven treatments for a therapy that has been studied very little.
"There's no long-term medical support for this. And if it does work, no one knows the correct bee sting dosage," Horstmyer said.
Li-Eva Kaiser admitted that she doesn't think the bees alone will cure her husband.
"We're all looking for a magic pill, but there's no one thing that does it. With a disease where there is no cure, I think people should try whatever they can," she said. She is convinced, however, that if her husband becomes more optimistic, he could walk again with these alternative treatments.
"We're going to continue with the bees as long as we continue to see results," said John Kaiser. "I really do believe I'm going to get him better."
The buzz about venom therapy
Advocates of bee venom therapy say it can be used to treat about 500 other diseases and conditions besides multiple sclerosis, including arthritis, allergies, cardiovascular diseases and asthma. None of these treatments have been scientifically proven.
Source: www.apitherapy .com
Copyright © 2004, The E.W. Scripps Co.