Could Bee Venom Treat Atopic Dermatitis? Maybe Someday

The results of recent studies show that people who suffer from atopic dermatitis might someday be treated with a substance based on the molecules that make bee stings painful.1,2

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis—also called atopic eczema—is a chronic, more severe form of eczema. It is characterized by distinctive patches of scaly dry skin, inflammation, redness, and itching. It is the most common type of this skin condition, affecting more than 18 million adults.3,4

Atopic dermatitis flares

Because it is a chronic, relapsing condition, people with AD experience ongoing, periodic “flares,” when symptoms become more severe, followed by periods of relief, when symptoms are less troublesome. Data shows that atopic dermatitis affects up to 25% of children and about 7% of adults.5

Causes of atopic dermatitis

The causes of atopic dermatitis are not fully understood, but it seems to originate from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.6 According to researchers, it is likely to result from an overactive immune system responding abnormally strongly to minor triggers or irritants. The result is an overproduction of immune factors and inflammation, which are responsible for the redness, swelling, and itching that are common in people with Atopic Dermatitis.


Many people with AD also have mutations in the genes that form a skin protein called filaggrin. Filaggrin is important in maintaining the protective barrier in our top layer of skin. Disruption in filaggrin allows moisture to escape the skin more easily as well as enabling bacteria, viruses, and other irritants to enter more easily.1,7

Bee venom treatment

Researchers in South Korea and Australia have been looking at the impact of a bee venom protein, called melittin, on the symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis. Bee venom, and more specifically melittin itself, can tamp down immune activity.2

Research on mice

The team compared normal mice and specially bred mice with Atopic Dermatitis-like symptoms. The idea was to see if the bee venom might help reduce inflammation. The study results were encouraging. They showed that bee venom, especially the melittin protein, could reduce the symptoms of swelling and redness, which are responsible for much of the discomfort in AD.1

Research on skin

The researchers also looked at the effect of bee venom and melittin on laboratory-based human skin cells with AD-like symptoms, and they got the same results.

How does bee venom work?

When the research team examined the way the bee venom might work biochemically, they noticed that it blocks certain chemical messengers—called cytokines — that ignite the immune response in normal cells.

Encouraging results

These results are very encouraging. They suggest that topical medicines made from bee venom-type substances might be able to quell the uncomfortable symptoms—like dry, red, itchy, and weepy skin—that stem from the overactive immune activity that results in Atopic Dermatitis.

Medicines based on bee venom will not be able to cure the underlying genetics of AD. However, they might eventually be able to provide more side-effect-free relief from AD.2

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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