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Bee-Pollen Seen As Risky for Allergy Patients

Skin-prick testing shows that nearly three-quarters of allergic subjects react to bee pollen

THURSDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Although often used as an alternative medicine or food supplement, bee-pollen usage by atopic patients could be dangerous, researchers report in the November issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Constantinos Pitsios, M.D., of Laikon General Hospital in Athens, Greece, and colleagues measured the pollen content of bee pollen collected from five different regions in Greece and prepared five extracts for skin-prick testing. They tested 145 atopic patients with respiratory allergy and 57 non-atopic controls. All of the subjects also underwent skin-prick testing with a standard battery of six aeroallergens.

The researchers found that one gram of bee pollen contained a large amount of plant pollens, including grass pollen. During skin-prick testing, the investigators found that 73 percent of the atopic subjects reacted to one or more bee-pollen extracts compared to none of the control subjects. A majority of atopic patients were sensitive to Greece's three most common airborne pollen allergens: grasses, Parietaria and olive.

"Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners promote honeybee products as anti-allergic remedies," the authors conclude. "These products are typically administered in gradually increasing doses, similar to allergen immunotherapy, with a premise that it may result in desensitization to pollen. Our data show that this practice is misguided and risky, since each spherule typically contains pollen of different gender and thus provides unpredictable amounts of allergens."

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