Manufacturing problem leads to shortage of bee venom

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Summertime is the season of stings, hornets, bees and wasps, but now a shortage of bee venom is making those with allergies a little nervous.

Darci Johnson, for example, learned she was allergic in college after she got stung. Now, to protect herself from those dangerous stings, she gets allergy immunotherapy, or shots.

The shots include a bee venom extract. It's used to treat people with potentially life-threatening insect sting allergies. They are given shots in incremental doses as a way to build up their immunity to the stings over time. For people like Darci, it's liberating.

"Knowing that, theoretically, again, if I were to get stung right now, I wouldn't have an anaphylactic reaction? That's freeing," she says.

But, because of a manufacturing problem, there's a bee venom shortage.

"We've definitely had to do some mild rationing," says Dr. Mark Moss with UW Health.

Doctors are telling patients not to panic, and the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology recommend increasing time between shots for low-risk patients.

"What this entails is to space out the intervals between treatments," says Dr. Moss.

For Darci, she just wants to get through summer without worry.

Beaumont allergist Devang Doshi tells us the shortage is limiting testing ability to some extent. Now, manufacturers are working quickly to increase supply.

 

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