Do Bee Stings Work For Arthritis?

[I ran across this interesting article about a 91 year old dentist who uses bee sting therapy for his friends who have various types of arthritis.  I smiled as I read it…

When I first started practice almost 30 years ago, the specialty of rheumatology was filled with stuffed shirt academic types who scoffed at anything that wasn’t subjected to a double-blind randomized controlled study at least 50 times.

Since then, it has been shown on numerous occasions that several alternative types of treatment do have value and that they do pass the test of scientific scrutiny- if time is taken to examine them.  Most academic rheumatologists are very cynical creatures.  That doesn’t mean they’re not nice people.

Bee venom is very interesting because its mode of action involves chemical messengers that have an anti-inflammatory and possibly immunomodulatory effect.  Obviously, it should be used with caution because of the danger from anaphylaxis.  And it doesn’t work for everyone. NW]

Retired dentist uses bee venom as therapy

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, May 30, 2009

By Tatiana Pina

Journal Staff Writer

Dr. Edward Ziegler Jr., above, gives a bee sting treatment in a wrist area, at left, for arthritis. Ziegler, 91, a retired dentist, stings himself 21 times every other day and says it relieves his rheumatoid arthritis. He keeps adrenaline in the refrigerator in case someone has an allergic reaction.

The Providence Journal / Kathy Borchers

PROVIDENCE — On the second floor of his Tabor Avenue home, Dr. Edward Ziegler Jr. sits at his kitchen table concentrating on a glass jar that seems to be humming.

Lawrence Knowles, 70, a Providence man with a shock of thick white hair, sits next to him with his left arm outstretched, awaiting relief from osteoarthritis, which pains his hands and makes them stiff.

The 91-year-old retired dentist opens the jar slightly and grabs a woman’s metal hair clip off the table. With all deftness of a man half his age he dips the hair clip into jar and plucks out a honey bee.

He presses the bee’s rump to Knowles’ wrist until it digs its stinger into him.

It hurts but Knowles says the venom from the bee helps alleviate his arthritis. Knowles, an adjunct faculty member at Bryant University, says it takes about three treatments before he starts to feel better. He’s been coming to Ziegler for six years. “He wants to beat me at squash,” Ziegler teases.

“The bee sting doesn’t cure a thing,” he declares. “It enhances the activity of the immune system.”

Ziegler has been practicing bee venom therapy for 30 years. He keeps adrenaline in the refrigerator in case someone has an allergic reaction. He invites people suffering from arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other ailments to his kitchen for treatment Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. It’s free, although he doesn’t mind the kisses from grateful women who have been helped by the treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation puts out a guide on alternative treatments for arthritis that lists bee venom therapy, saying it’s used as an anti-inflammatory for conditions such tendonitis, bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The guide says a study of mice with induced arthritis showed that after eight weeks of bee venom injections the incidence of arthritis was significantly lower than in the control group. The guide also says bee stings can hurt and may not work. It suggests that if the patient sees no improvement after eight sessions and a total of 20 to 70 bee stings or injections, it’s probably not going to work.

Ziegler says he scoffed when a colleague suggested bee venom therapy over 30 years ago. But he decided to try it when his feet hurt so much from rheumatoid arthritis that he could barely walk. He wasn’t about to miss out on the things he loved to do like riding a motorcycle, deer hunting or flying a plane. He stings himself 21 times every other day. He keeps five hives in his back yard.

Ziegler estimates that in his lifetime his bees have stung 7,000 people. “I would be a cripple if it weren’t for the bees. I had no choice but to help other people.”

Common Over the Counter Pain Reliever Can Trash Your Liver!

  [This “news” is actually not news.  For years, rheumatologists have known that patients who take too much acetaminophen – and there are alot of patients who do this- develop liver toxicity and sometimes liver failure.  Acetaminophen may be the second leading cause of need for liver trans-plants (after hepatitis C).  Patients should be aware that just because it’s over the counter, it’s not necessarily safe.  And the risk is also made worse when patients combine over the counter acetaminophen along with prescription painkillers that also contain acetaminophen].

The NBC Nightly News (5/27, story 9, 0:20, Williams) reported, “An FDA report recommends stronger warnings and dose limits on drugs containing the painkiller acetaminophen,” which is “the active ingredient in Tylenol and a host of other pain relievers.” The report “cites an increased risk of liver damage.”

        The AP (5/28) adds that the recommendations cover “both prescription doses and over-the-counter medication” and “include enhanced public information efforts, stronger labels warning of liver side effects, and dose limitations.”

        The FDA working group that issued the report, “made up of 12 top officials in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, recommended lowering immediate-release tablet strength to no more than 325 milligrams from the current 500 milligrams and reducing the single adult dose to 650 milligrams, from 1,000 milligrams,” according to Bloomberg News (5/28, Larkin). The FDA also said acetaminophen “overdose was linked to 458 deaths and 26,000 hospitalizations annually from 1990 to 2001,” and the drug “is a leading cause of acute liver failure in the US.” Meanwhile, the FDA “has asked members of its advisory panels on drug safety, anesthetic and life-support drugs, and nonprescription drugs to meet June 29-30… to discuss the group’s recommendations…and how they may be implemented.”

This is a really interesting study.  A biologic drug that’s used to treat rheumatoid arthritis- a drug that, I might add,  doesn’t seem to be all that effective for RA-  might prove useful in combating the flu.  At least it seems to work in mice.  So if we all develop tails,whiskers, and pink eyes… who knows? This article was published in Science Daily which is an awesome website for new news in science.

Arthritis Drug May Be Effective in Fighting Flu

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2009) — Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found that an approved drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis reduces severe illness and death in mice exposed to the Influenza A virus. Their findings suggest that tempering the response of the body’s immune system to influenza infection may alleviate some of the more severe symptoms and even reduce mortality from this virus.

The scientists report in the June 1 edition of The Journal of Immunology, which is now available online, that mice infected with the Influenza A virus responded favorably to a drug called Abatacept, which is commonly used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis. The mice had been given “memory” T-cells, or white blood cells that have been primed to fight the invading virus as the result of previous exposure to Influenza A.

“We found that treating the mice with Abatacept minimized tissue damage caused by the immune response, but still enabled the body to rid itself of the virus. The mice didn’t become as sick, recovered much faster and had much less damage to the lungs, compared to mice that weren’t given the drug,” says Donna L. Farber, Ph.D., a professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the study’s senior author.

“Moreover, treatment with Abatacept significantly improved survival for mice infected with a lethal dose of influenza virus,” Dr. Farber says. “The survival rate for the treated mice was 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for the mice that weren’t treated.”

She explains that the drug does not interrupt the immune system’s early, rapid attack in the lungs, which helps to kill the virus, but it prevents “memory” T-cells from overreacting, which produces multiple negative effects. “It’s this overactive immune response that can make you feel sick – and can also lead to pneumonia,” she says.

The study’s lead author, John R. Teijaro, a researcher in Dr. Farber’s lab, notes that tissue damage caused by this vigorous immune response – often most prevalent in young, healthy people – is thought to be the leading cause of death from pandemic strains of flu, such as the avian flu and the 1918 Spanish flu. It is also thought to be true of the early cases of H1N1 “swine” flu.

Dr. Farber says, “We believe that our findings are very significant because they provide a potential new treatment for infection by the influenza virus – one that would dampen the immune response, yet still preserve its protective effects.”

The researchers are now testing Abatacept in mice that have not previously been exposed to the flu virus, trying to determine how well they respond to the drug once they have become very sick. Instead of having “memory” T-cells, these mice have what are known as “naïve” T-cells, which have never been activated by being exposed to influenza previously. Depending on the results, Dr. Farber hopes to one day bring this promising new immunotherapy to the clinic for the benefit of patients.

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, “The results of this study are very promising. Influenza is a significant public health problem, affecting millions around the world each year. We hope that this study – and Dr. Farber’s continuing research – will pave theway for identifying an effective treatment,” Dr. Reece says.

Abatacept, which is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb and marketed under the name Orencia, is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The drug is not approved for treating influenza.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

There are three types of seasonal influenza, A, B and C, and a number of subtypes of Influenza A, including a new strain of the H1N1 virus, also known as the “swine flu,” which has recently emerged and caused illness and a number of deaths this year in Mexico, the United States and other countries around the world.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent someone from getting the flu or having a serious case of the disease. An antiviral drug, Tamiflu, can help to prevent the flu virus from spreading within the body if it is taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

Dr. Farber points out that an immunotherapy with a drug such as Abatacept would be effective against different strains of the virus because the target of the drug would be the immune system, not the virus itself. “We’re very excited about the potential of developing a new therapy, which possibly could be given to people even after they are very sick,” she says.

Journal reference:

  1. Teijaro et al. Costimulation Modulation Uncouples Protection from Immunopathology in Memory T Cell Responses to Influenza Virus. The Journal of Immunology, 2009; 182 (11): 6834 DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803860

Adapted from materials provided by University of Maryland Medical Center.

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the May 26, 2009 edition of the Wasington Post and was then picked up by the American College of Rheumatology.

Those of us who are Boomers (and I’m one of them since my birthdate was in August of 1949), want to stay young. fit, healthy, and in shapte.  Sixty is the new 30, as they say… 

This is one reason why the field of regenerative medicine with the use of PRP and stem cells is picking up momentum.  We all want to feel as good as we look!


More baby boomers joining gyms to improve health.

The Washington Post (5/26, Gowen) reports, “With the baby boomers’ impact on demography, people older than 55 make up the fastest-growing segment of the fitness industry, and more gyms are adding programming especially for them. In places where hip-hop once blasted as buff bodies hefted weights, a grayer clientele is signing up for yoga and aquatics classes, or exercising on recumbent bicycles and elliptical machines designed for older bodies.” Joe Moore, chief executive of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, said, “It’s a natural trend as this segment of the population ages. … We’re seeing many [seniors] going to health clubs because of the health benefits, and not just the aesthetics of looking better.” Notably, the “association estimates that there were nearly 10 million health club members older than 55 in 2007, up from two million in 1990. Nearly a third of the member clubs now have senior programming.”

Prolotherapy is type of treatment where dextrose (sugar water) is injected into a tendon, ligament, or joint.  The dextrose acts as a “proliferant” to induce inflammation.

This artificially created inflammatory response then leads to increased blood flow and migration of inflammatory cells into the area.  The end result is acceleration of the healing process and creation of stronger connective tissue.

An added plus is that symptoms of pain also improve.

Prolotherapy has been used to treat chronic tendonitis, whiplash, fibromyalgia, sports related injuries, ligament tears, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, and temperomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome).

Multiple treatments are often required.

Prolotherapy has been referred to as the “poor man’s PRP”.

In the right hands, prolotherapy is very effective and has been shown to be a cost effective solution for the treatment of many soft tissue injuries.

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