Report: Woman dies after 'live bee acupuncture' treatment - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Report: Woman dies after 'live bee acupuncture' treatment

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An Africanized honey bee (left) and a European honey bee on a honeycomb. Despite color differences between these two bees, it’s difficult to identify them by eye. An Africanized honey bee (left) and a European honey bee on a honeycomb. Despite color differences between these two bees, it’s difficult to identify them by eye.

A woman from Spain died after having an allergic reaction to an acupuncture procedure where bee stings are used instead of needles.

The 55-year-old patient was receiving a treatment to relieve tight muscles and stress, according to a case study in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology.

However, the session quickly went south when the woman “developed wheezing, dyspnea, and a sudden loss of consciousness immediately after a live bee sting.”

What is ‘live bee acupuncture?’

Apitherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses various honey bee products, such as honey, bee wax, and pollen, according to Medicine World

More extreme procedures, like “live bee acupuncture,” use bee venom.

During these sessions, a practitioner places a live bee on the patient and squeezes the insect's head until the needle emerges to insert into the body.

The bee dies shortly after stinging.

Proponents say the therapy is effective at treating various diseases and alleviating pain.

However, the journal’s authors say it's dangerous.

“The risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits, leading us to conclude that this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable,” Paula Vázquez-Revuelta and Ricardo Madrigal-Burgaleta, from the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital in Spain said in the study.

What happened?

The unnamed victim, who had no reported diseases, had been receiving apitherapy treatment every month for two years without any reaction, according to the journal.

The recently published case study doesn't specify when the woman started experiencing problems with the treatment. 

The journal says she was rushed to the hospital, where she died from multiple organ failure.

The journal's authors say it is possible for someone to have a deadly reaction after having the procedure so many times before. 

“Repeated exposure to the allergen was found to carry a greater risk of severe allergic reactions than in the general population,” Vázquez-Revuelta and Madrigal-Burgaleta wrote.

This is the first reported death caused by bee venom apitherapy in a patient who was previously tolerant of the treatment, according to the journal.

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