Venom from bee stings could help to treat and even prevent arthritis, new research has suggested. The findings helped to explain anecdotal reports of how patients who undergo bee sting therapy report improvement in their condition. Scientists have found that bee venom can control the harmful inflammation in joints that leads to rheumatoid arthritis. They have shown the venom contains molecules that cause an increase in natural hormones in the body that regulate inflammation. It has raised hopes that bee venom can be used to develop new treatments that can help bring relief from the pain of arthritis and even prevent it from developing in the first place. The findings helped to explain anecdotal reports of how patients who undergo bee sting therapy report improvement in their condition. Dr Suzana Beatriz Veríssimo de Mello, an associate professor in rheumatology who led the research at the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, said bee venom caused increased levels of
anti-inflammatory hormones called glucocorticoids. She said: “Bee venom is a complex mixture of substances that are known to induce immune and allergic responses in humans. “Nevertheless, bee venom has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis for centuries. However, the placebo effect has been described in studies investigating bee venom anti-inflammatory properties in arthritic patients. “Our data shows that bee venom prevents the development of induced arthritis in rabbits through the action of glucocorticoids.” Bee Sting Therapy, in which patients endure hundreds of stings by bees in the hope of getting better, is often used as a form of alternative medicine to treat a range of conditions such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. The new research is the first time a scientific explanation has been shown for the effect. Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, warned that it may be some time before any clinical applications could be found. He said: “Failure to have an adequate steroid response might allow rheumatoid arthritis to take hold, so the bee venom is a way of stimulating the body’s natural steroids to respond to the auto-immune processes that causes rheumatoid arthritis. “However, knowing anecdotally that when some people with inflammatory arthritis are stung by bees their pain goes away for a short while is one thing; actually turning these early laboratory findings into a practical clinical application is quite another.” * Join The Sunday Telegraph’s campaign to “Bring Back Bees” and find out how you can help Britian’s bee population. news
from: telegraph.co.uk ~ Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea,presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bees have a long proboscis (a complex “tongue”) that enables them to obtain the nectar from flowers. They have antennae almost universally made up of 13 segments in males and 12 in females, as is typical for the superfamily. Bees all have two pairs of wings, the hind pair being the smaller of the two; in a very few species, one sex or caste has relatively short wings that make flight difficult or impossible, but none are wingless. Morphology of a female honey bee; The smallest bee is Trigona minima, a stingless bee whose workers are about 2.1 mm (5/64″) long. The largest bee in the world is Megachile pluto, a leafcutter bee whose females can attain a length of 39 mm (1.5″). Members of the family Halictidae, or sweat bees, are the most common type of bee in the Northern Hemisphere, though they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. The best-known bee species is the European honey bee, which, as its name suggests, produces honey, as do a few other types of bee. Human management of this species is known as beekeeping or apiculture. Bees are the favorite meal of Merops apiaster, the bee-eater bird. Other common predators are kingbirds, mockingbirds, bee wolves and dragonflies. ~ GoodNews International
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