Vaccine Could Eliminate Risk of Severe Allergic Reactions to Bee Stings

August 19th 2019
Aislinn Antrim
Aislinn Antrim

Researchers in Australia have successfully completed a human trial for a vaccine that could effectively eliminate the risk of severe allergic reactions to European honeybee stings.

Researchers in Australia have successfully completed a human trial for a vaccine that could effectively eliminate the risk of severe allergic reactions to European honeybee stings, according to an article published in theJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.1

The trial took place at Flinders University and the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and included 27 adults with a history of allergic reactions to bee stings.

While most people will experience a mild to moderate reaction to a bee sting, including localized redness and swelling, approximately 5 to 7.5% of people will experience a severe allergic reaction to insect stings in their lifetimes.2

Bee venom contains proteins that affect the skin cells and immune system, resulting in pain and swelling even if a person is not allergic. In those who are allergic, the venom triggers the immune system to produce Immunoglobulin E, which in the case of a bee sting causes an inappropriate immune response such as hives, swelling, and respiratory problems.2

The vaccine itself contains a unique sugar-based ingredient called the Advax adjuvant, which can help the body neutralize the bee venom at a faster rate. According to Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, the Advax adjuvant has now been successfully given to over a thousand individuals across a range of vaccines, including those in the current bee sting allergy trial.

The Advax adjuvant was developed by Vaxine Pty Ltd in Australia, and has already been used to develop vaccines for seasonal and pandemic influenza, hepatitis, malaria, Alzheimers disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Associate professor and lead investigator of the trial Robert Heddle, RAH, said the goal was to see whether or not the adjuvant would safely accelerate and improve bee sting immunotherapy.

"The results of the study were very promising and confirmed the safety of this approach to improving bee sting immunotherapy," Heddle said in a statement.

While a commercial bee venom therapy is already avaialble, it currently requires patients to receive over 50 injections during a 3-year period in order to build up their immune system.

Anthony Smith, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, and an investigator on the trial, said in a statement that he's hopeful this immunotherapy could transform the venom therapy landscape.

"The current treatment option for serious bee venom allergies is lengthy and cumbersome, so I hope this enhanced bee venom therapy brings about faster but longer lasting protection to bee stings for allergic individuals," Smith said.

References

  1. Heddle R, Smith A, Woodman R, Hissaria P, et al. Randomized controlled trial demonstrating the benefits of delta inulin adjuvanted immunotherapy in patients with bee venom allergy.Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.03.035.
  2. Lillis C. Bee sting allergy: Symptoms, causes, and treatment. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322075.php. Accessed August 19, 2019.

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