Bee stings are Egypt’s latest medical treatment
Cairo - Afew months ago, Soaad Hussein’s 5-year-old son was diagnosed with cerebral atrophy. She took the boy to several specialised hospitals in Egypt for treatment of the brain condition and spent a fortune but to no avail.
A relative told her about a centre in al-Arish in the Sinai peninsula that treats patients like her son using the bee stings and venom.
“I could not believe that this is a way of treatment until I visited the centre and found a lot of people waiting for their turn there,” said Hussein, 52 and a resident of Cairo. “Centre officials told me that it would take them 36 bee stinging sessions to treat my son.”
Treatment with bee stings and venom is the latest medical trend in Egypt. Tired of traditional treatments, a growing number of people are resorting to bee stings to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, liver disease and cancer.
Centres using bee stings and venom treatments have popped up in several parts of Egypt in the past few years. Inside the centres, white-clad, self-styled specialists hold bees with tweezers and allow them to sting patients repeatedly. The location of the stings is determined by the disease being treated.
People involved in the controversial therapy say more patients are applying to be stung by bees as treatment for a wide range of diseases.
“This stinging is paying off in a large number of cases,” said Mohamed Abdel Tawab, an independent researcher looking into treatment with bee stings. “Marvellous treatment results have started to invite the attention of a large number of people.”
Ahmed Abdel Wahid, a 39-year-old civil servant, is one of them. He said he was diagnosed with hepatitis C a few years ago and had serious problems with his liver. He visited the centre in al-Arish, where he was stung by bees on his stomach. He said the stings were very painful, causing parts of his stomach to swell and turn red. But “overall, I feel the improvement in my body”, Abdel Wahid said.
There is no accurate estimate of the number of centres using bee-sting therapies and most of those that exist are unapproved by authorities, Abdel Tawab said.
There is a dearth of research on bee stings and venom as a medical method and Egyptian medical specialists said the treatment is a swindle. They said when a person is stung by a bee, it sets off negative reactions in the body, not disease treatment.
“There is no scientific evidence that bee venom can treat such serious diseases,” said Hani al-Nazer, the former head of the government-run National Research Centre. “People at these centres exploit patients’ desperation with traditional treatment methods as well as their ignorance to take money from them under the pretext that they treat them with bee stings and venom.”
Nazer called on authorities to crack down on the bee-sting centres.
Some centres have been closed by authorities, which accused the owners of illegally taking money from patients.
Hussein took her son to a centre in al-Arish, about 300km north-east of Cairo. Centre workers told her that the boy needed three sessions every week for three months.
“The boy was stung in his face by bees 150 times every session,” Hussein said. “It was extremely painful but we had to wait in the hope of seeing any positive results.”
The results were unbelievable, she said. The boy, who could not move his arms or walk, now moves his arms, walks and talks. His language remained hardly comprehensible, which is why Hussein consulted a speech therapist.
Few similar success stories can be found, although centre director Mohamed Naguib said his centre has treated scores of people in recent months.
“Treatment by bee sting and venom is a ray of hope for thousands of patients who cannot find suitable treatment to their diseases,” Naguib said. “Bee stings are producing very positive results, which is making a large number of people interested.”
He said as many as 500 patients visit his centre for treatment every day and the centre has a waiting list for patients seeking treatment. Naguib said the centre charges $5-$50 a session, depending on the number of stings.