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Risk Associated with Bee Venom Therapy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
The safety of bee venom as a therapeutic compound has been extensively studied, resulting in the identification of potential adverse events, which range from trivial skin reactions that usually resolve over several days to life-threating severe immunological responses such as anaphylaxis. In this systematic review, we provide a summary of the types and prevalence of adverse events associated with bee venom therapy.
We searched the literature using 12 databases from their inception to June 2014, without language restrictions. We included all types of clinical studies in which bee venom was used as a key intervention and adverse events that may have been causally related to bee venom therapy were reported.
A total of 145 studies, including 20 randomized controlled trials, 79 audits and cohort studies, 33 single-case studies, and 13 case series, were evaluated in this review. The median frequency of patients who experienced adverse events related to venom immunotherapy was 28.87% (interquartile range, 14.57–39.74) in the audit studies. Compared with normal saline injection, bee venom acupuncture showed a 261% increased relative risk for the occurrence of adverse events (relative risk, 3.61; 95% confidence interval, 2.10 to 6.20) in the randomized controlled trials, which might be overestimated or underestimated owing to the poor reporting quality of the included studies.
Adverse events related to bee venom therapy are frequent; therefore, practitioners of bee venom therapy should be cautious when applying it in daily clinical practice, and the practitioner’s education and qualifications regarding the use of bee venom therapy should be ensured.
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