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Using bees as a treatment for Lyme disease

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 8:20 AM EDT
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Three-hundred-thousand people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Usually caused by a tick bite, it can impact people physically, mentally, and neurologically. If diagnosed early, antibiotics will wipe out the bacteria left behind in the blood before it spreads through the heart, joints and nervous system. Now, some patients are turning to bees to take the sting out of this painful and debilitating disease.

One sting—after another—after another …

These days, Adriana Furey stings herself with ten live honeybees three times a week to get relief from the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease. Before …

“For months and years at a time in a dark room, really unable to pick my head up off the pillow,” Adriana Furey recalled.

Adriana and her mother talked with 75 different doctors, tried antibiotics, immunotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen and herbal treatments. Nothing worked until bee venom therapy, or BVT. Ellie Lobel, a nuclear physicist, literally stumbled across the treatment by accident.

“I was attacked by killer bees,” Ellie Lobel shared.

But days after surviving the surprise bee attack her symptoms started disappearing. Ellie spent the next several years researching BVT and found it kills the bacteria that causes Lyme’s most debilitating symptoms—but according to Ellie, it only works if taken directly from the bee.

“The devil’s in the dosing right, is what they say. So not enough, won’t heal you, but too much can kill you,” Lobel revealed.

A warning Dr. Amy Edwards takes very seriously.

“What I would just tell people is to be careful. Being chronically ill makes you desperate, you just want relief ... And I get that, I do. And so, you’re willing to try anything, but there’s no evidence that this works,” Amy Edwards, MD of pediatric infection control at University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

But Adriana and her mother are true bee believers.

“It’s pretty amazing. It hurts, it burns, but it’s worth it to get your life back,” Furey expressed.

Researchers with the Lyme disease research group at the University of New Haven studied the effects of bee venom and found it could be effective against the bacteria that causes Lyme. However, the scientists caution that more research is needed to determine a safe and effective way to administer the bee venom, and melittin, the main protein in the venom. Health experts say people who are allergic to bees, or who are living with adrenal failure should not try this.

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