According to a case study published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, a woman in Spain recently died after she underwent acupuncture therapy using live bee stings instead of needles. As is the case with all alternative medicines/treatments that lead to death, the case has raised questions about whether or not apitherapy (the unsubstantiated alternative medicine that harnesses honey bee products) is safe.
The use of bee stings, something almost all of the planet tries to actively avoid, remains a controversial practice with weak evidence supporting its effectiveness.
According to this fatal case report, doctors in Madrid reported that a 55-year-old patient was receiving bee acupuncture every four weeks over the course of two years in an effort to alleviate her stress. The woman did not have a prior clinical record indicating any disease or allergy.
In what would end up being her last session, she began wheezing and had labored breathing. She also lost consciousness. An ambulance was called but by the time it got to her location she was already comatose. According to the report, hospital staff desperately tried to combat her deteriorating condition, but she died a few weeks after the session due to multiple organ failures.
"To our knowledge," wrote Paula Vázquez-Revuelta of Ramon y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid, "this is the first reported case of death by bee venom apitherapy due to complications of severe anaphylaxis in a confirmed sensitized patient who was previously tolerant."
Vázquez-Revuelta and her colleagues suggest that practitioners of apitherapy make their patients fully aware of dangers that could arise from receiving the controversial treatments. Vázquez-Revuelta also suggests that those conducting apitherapy sessions (who often lack a medical background) be trained in giving proper responses to allergies.
According to Cosmos Magazine, the doctors who authored the study stated that getting acupuncture from bee stings is "both unsafe and unadvisable." Consider yourself warned.