In this newsletter, we have encountered the many wonders of bees. But Texas Monthly has an account of another we can — possibly — add to the list: Lyme disease therapy??
Unfortunately, the science is murky, but that seems par for the course for anything involving Lyme — so named after a town in Connecticut where, in the early 1970s, residents began feeling feverish, achy, and intensely fatigued after being bit by deer ticks carrying the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. A course of antibiotics usually clears up infections caught early, but symptoms can persist afterward as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome”. Major controversy starts when people feel chronic fatigue and pain, without a conclusive b. burgdorferi infection in their past, and attribute their experience to “chronic Lyme.” Many experts don’t think chronic Lyme exists. But that doesn’t mean the pain and fatigue and disruption sufferers experience don’t.
One such sufferer was Tricia Gschwind, who believed she had chronic Lyme after spotting a bullseye rash on her ankle in 2009. Therapies from established doctors did nothing to alleviate her symptoms, so she approached alternative therapies. Soon, she was deliberately stinging herself with honey bees (!) — and, incredibly, started feeling better.
“It is possible — some would say probable — that these individuals are promoting a technique whose success is based more on psychology than pharmacology. There is little science to substantiate a cure by stinging. There have been two clinical studies investigating the link between bee venom and Lyme, and though they are compelling, they are confined to petri dishes. […]
Yet these in vitro experiments don’t translate to the human body. For starters, bees don’t carry enough venom to have more than a local effect. This is a good thing, experts argue, because if the venom did reach the bloodstream in a dose large enough to be effective against the bacteria, it could kill the patient. ‘Many things are antibiotic — like bleach,’ said Sam Robinson, a venom researcher at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia. ‘Bleach is effective at killing any microbe, but you can’t use it as a drug.’”
Apitherapy — the use of bee products in human health management — has been part of folk medicine for millennia. How the bee-sting protocol operates for followers is up in the air: after all, the placebo effect actually works. I’d personally steer clear of any treatment whose side effects include sudden anaphylaxis, as well as honey bee murder! But that’s easy to say if I’m not at the end of my rope.