Bee stings are Egypt’s latest medical treatment

Sunday 30/10/2016

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.