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Bee sting allergy could be a defense response gone haywire, scientists finds

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Posted October 25, 2013
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For most people, a bee sting causes temporary pain and discomfort, but for those with a bee venom allergy, the consequences can be devastating: They experience anaphylactic shock, including a drop in blood pressure, itchy hives and breathing problems, and may die if not promptly treated.

 

New findings by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists may provide an evolutionary explanation for severe allergic reactions. In a paper to be published online Oct. 24 in Immunity, the researchers show that mice injected with a small dose of bee venom were later resistant to a potentially lethal dose of the same venom. The study is the first experimental evidence that the same immune response involved in allergies may have evolved to serve a protective role against toxins.

The study builds on earlier work by the researchers, characterizing the innate immune response to snake venom and honeybee venom. Innate immune responses occur in subjects exposed to a foreign substance, such as a pathogen or a toxic material like venom, for the first time. Immune cells called mast cells, which reside in most of the body’s tissues, are poised to unleash signals that turn on defense responses when a pathogen or toxin intrudes. In a previous study, the researchers found that mast cells produce enzymes that can detoxify components of snake venom, and that mast cells can also enhance innate resistance to honeybee venom.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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