'Tongue Drops' Cut Bee Sting Allergy
Placing Venom Under the Tongue May Offer Alternative to Allergy Shots
WebMD News Archive
March 18, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- Taking allergy drops instead of enduring
painful shots may someday become an option for people who are allergic to
In a preliminary study, Italian researchers found that putting honeybee
venom under the tongue was safe and significantly reduced reactions in people
allergic to bee stings.
Immunotherapy using the ubiquitous allergy shot is the standard treatment
for allergies to everything from
insect stings to dust mites. Tiny amounts of the allergens are injected into
the patient until tolerance develops.
The new study involved a different form of immunotherapy, called sublingual
immunotherapy. It involves putting extracts of allergens under the tongue. Like
the shots, sublingual immunotherapy reduces allergic sensitivity in many
patients over time.
Although a popular treatment for asthma, rubber
latex, and other allergies in many European countries, sublingual therapy has
not been approved for use in the U.S.
And it's never been used to treat sting allergies, even in Europe, says
researcher Giovanni Passalacqua, MD, of the Allergy and Respiratory Diseases
Clinic at the University of Genoa.
Honeybee Venom Drops vs. Placebo
The new study, presented here at the annual meeting of the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma and Immunotherapy (AAAAI), is the first attempt to determine
if sublingual immunotherapy is effective against honeybee sting allergies,
The study involved 30 people with a history of local allergic reactions to
honeybee stings. A local reaction is a large raised patch of pricked skin right
in the area of the sting. These raised bumps are often called wheals.
The participants were randomly assigned to receive either sublingual
immunotherapy in the form of honeybee venom drops placed under the tongue, or
Patients in the immunotherapy group got escalating doses of honeybee venom
for six weeks, followed by a maintenance dose, given three times a week for six
"You hold the drop under the tongue for about one or two minutes, then
swallow," Passalacqua says.
The Bee Sting Challenge
Then came the bee sting challenge. "We put insects in a jar and then put
the jar on the patient's forearm" and looked to see what happened, he