How bee venom could be used to fight UK's allergy epidemic

A treatment abandoned by the NHS 30 years ago could be brought back to fight the allergy epidemic.

Immunotherapy involves repeated doses of bee or wasp venom, grass pollen or extract of dust mite to build up tolerance.

It would help thousands of patients, despite safety fears following a series of deaths in the 1980s, according to a House of Lords inquiry. Severe reactions could now be handled by specialist staff, the Science and Technology Committee has said.

Millions of patients across Europe receive immunotherapy each year and the UK has become a 'laughing stock' for turning its back on the treatment, said a report. The cost of allergies now tops £1 billion a year in NHS treatments alone, the peers say. They call for a network of specialist centres to help millions of allergy sufferers being failed by the system.

But there is a severe shortage of specialists - fewer than 30 doctors compared with as many as 450 in other countries - and only eight trainees in the pipeline. The peers say there are only eight paediatric allergists in the country and poor training of GPs means many are unable to diagnose and manage allergic disorders.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who chaired the sub-committee which produced the report, said there is a lack of awareness in all walks of life to the 'potentially catastrophic effects of severe allergic reaction'.

Children are increasingly affected - teenagers suffering hay fever could drop an exam grade. And there are countless victims of occupational allergies who had been forced out of work, she said.

Evidence about immunotherapy suggested it works and could save money, yet the Government's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence had no plans to appraise its use within the NHS.

"By failing to make use of this potentially life-saving and cost-effective treatment, the short- sighted approach of the Department of Health is not only wasting money but is also subjecting a large number of allergy patients to an impaired quality of life," she said.

Source - Daily Mail

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