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Assessment of Bee Venom Therapy in Animal Model of Statin-induced Myopathy

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Statins are the most effective and commonly used drug for treatment of hypercholesterolemia (Toth et al., 2018). Statin associated myopathy includes a broad spectrum of conditions that range from benign myalgia to more serious inflammation, and rarely may lead to life threatening rhabdomyolysis (Hilton-Jones, 2018). Dealing with such common side effect is mandatory due to lack of any other approved drug for treatment of hypercholesterolemia apart from Ezetimibe which is significantly much less effective (Russell et al., 2018).

The therapeutic application of bee venom has been used in traditional medicine to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, pain and frozen shoulder (Nejash and Jilo, 2016). Bee venom was also used for the treatment of different neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimers and Parkinson (Hwang et al., 2015). It was also tried recently as well for treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (Baher and Abo-Zeid, 2017) and neuromuscular junction disease (Savilov, 2010). Yet, up to the authors’ knowledge there are no publications concerning the therapeutic use of bee venom for myopathy neither in humans nor animals.

The present study was conducted to evaluate the effect of bee venom administration on the development of simvastatin induced myopathy in rats. Rat model was chosen rather than humans as the use of bee venom therapy in humans require a specialized precaution in order to deal with any adverse effects of such therapy, ranging from simple allergy to severe fatal anaphylactic shock, which needs specialized life saving measures (Ali, 2012). Its use in humans; should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health care professional. Most experts recommend having an emergency sting kit available in case of allergic reaction; including a syringe and a dose of epinephrine and antihistaminic tablets (Castro et al., 2005).

The protocol of statin administration to induce myopathy was adopted from previous studies; the work of Westwood et al., (2005) utilized a dose of 80 mg / kg / day simvastatin to induce myopathy in rats and Mallinson et al., (2009) who used the dose 88 mg / kg / day simvastatin for 12 days. As for bee stinging protocol, we applied the regimen of actual bee sting every other day for 2 weeks, as recommended by Sayed et al. (2009), who applied this regimen to study the antimicrobial properties of bee venom against staphylococcal infection. In another study assessing the anti-inflammatory effect of bee venom in adjuvant-induced arthritis in rat, the whole bee venom was also administered subcutaneously every other day for 14 days (Lee et al., 2005).

Two muscles (a proximal as well as a distal one) were selected for QEMG assessment for better evaluation of the pattern of myopathy induced or prevented. Easy activation was another important factor for the choice of studied muscles. Authors settled on hind limb muscles (quadriceps and gastrocnemius) as they fulfill the above-mentioned criteria. As gastrocnemius muscle is rather small in size and proper sampling for muscle quadrants was a little challenging, additional in vitro contractility tests were added to gastrocnemius for more precise evaluation.

Regarding CK, the present study reports that simvastatin induces CK elevation for more than 4 folds. These findings are in agreement with several other reports both in humans and animals (Shannon et al., 2013; Osaki et al., 2015; Choi et al., 2016; El-Ganainy et al., 2016). Co-administration of bee venom with simvastatin is found to partially reduce CK elevation to 2 folds only, which was still significantly high. This finding suggests that bee venom can partially ameliorate the skeletal muscle cell damage induced by simvastatin.

The QEMG results showed significant changes especially in quadriceps muscle, being more proximal. The statin group showed significant changes in interference pattern analysis parameters, indicating skeletal myopathy, in the form of increase in the numbers of turns, turn/amplitude (T/A) ratio, NSS and activity %, together with decrease in the mean amplitude.

These findings are in line with that of Farouk et al. (2012), who demonstrated that simvastatin in rats at different regimen of use induced myopathic EMG features which persisted even after simvastatin discontinuation. However, their study assessed gastrocnemius muscle only, analyzing just two parameters of the interference pattern (amplitude and duration) and did not document any spontaneous activity. Also, they assessed stem cell therapy for prevention of myopathy and reported its success. No other studies on rat model were found to compare the current study results with.

The myopathic picture can be due to random and diffuse degeneration as well as asynchronous firing of muscle fibers, reflected in the short duration, low-amplitude, and polyphasic shape of individual motor unit potentials. These changes in individual motor unit potentials influence the interference pattern, resulting in an increase in number of turns, a decrease in mean amplitude, an increase in turn/amplitude (T/A) ratio, and an increase in number of small time intervals between turns (Farrugia and Kennett, 2005; Abdulrazak et al., 2015). In literature, concerning subjects with myopathy, analysis of the interference pattern was more sensitive than the motor unit potential analysis (Finsterer, 2001). Moreover, it was reported that myopathies are characterized by increased the numbers of turns and turn/amplitude (T/A) ratio, increased NSS, and decreased amplitude (Fuglsang-Frederiksen, 2000).

The present study demonstrated that simvastatin administration produces significant detrimental effects on skeletal muscles contractility as shown by gastrocnemius simple muscle twitch parameters. Also, it was found that bee venom co-administration with simvastatin prevented these effects.

These findings agree with Simsek et al., (2014) who reported that simvastatin administration resulted in a depression in the force-frequency curves in all muscles, indicating the impairment of muscle contractility.

The impairment of skeletal muscle contractility could be explained by the fact that simvastatin induce skeletal muscle structural and functional alterations that are more profound in the fast-twitch than in the slow-twitch muscles. Moreover, the kinetics and functions of membrane ion channels were also affected, contributing to the statin-induced impairment of muscle contractility (Simsek et al., 2014).

The lack of clinical signs of myopathy throughout the 2 weeks period of the study in spite the QEMG and CK results suggesting myopathy may be attributed to the short duration of the study which caused only subclinical myopathy.

The mechanism through which the bee venom might have partially prevented the simvastatin induced myopathy is not clear as the proposed mechanisms of its induction of myopathy are multiple including, inflammatory mitochondrial impairment and oxidative stress (Taha et al., 2014), passing through multifactorial induction of apoptosis (Kwak et al., 2012) and autoimmune triggered myopathy (Kassardjian et al., 2015), even genetic predisposition is hypothesized (Drobny et al., 2014). On the other hand bee venom has several components with different mechanisms of action and different therapeutic effects.

Anti-inflammatory effect and modulation of the activity of the immune system is the most relevant mechanism in the authors’ opinion. It could be achieved through elevation of plasma cortisol (Finsterer, 2001), suppression of leukocyte migration and TNFα levels (Kwon et al., 2003), reduction in cytokine production (Lee et al., 2008) as well as infiltration of CD4+ T cells at the site of inflammation (Kim et al., 2005). Also, modulation of peripheral immune tolerance by Tregs may contribute to the protective effect of bee venom (Chung et al., 2012).

Bee venom has powerful antioxidant effect and apparently normalizes in structure of the mitochondria through prevention of micro-vasculopathy as documented histologically in a study conducted by Baher and Abo-Zeid, (2017). However, in the former study normalization of microcirculation was attributed to reduction of hyperglycemia in diabetics but in the current study hypercholesterolemia reversal is the case.

The current results show significant reduction in cholesterol serum level in bee venom group, though not as marked as in the statin group (still less than the control group). This finding suggests that the use of bee venom reduces the cholesterol lowering effect of simvastatin but does not abolish it. Either reduction in simvastatin serum level or in affinity of drug to its receptor is suggested. Further studies including monitoring of simvastatin serum level and using other statins are recommended for better understanding and thus maximizing statin therapeutic effects during concurrent bee venom administration.

The current study offers a simple, cheap easily available prophylaxis against the most common side effect of worldwide frequently used cholesterol lowering agent (statins) with no need for its continuous dose adjustments or replacement or the use of sophisticated method as stem cell therapy offered in literature (Farouk et al., 2012).

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Assessment of Bee Venom Therapy in Animal Model of Statin-induced Myopathy. (2019, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from
“Assessment of Bee Venom Therapy in Animal Model of Statin-induced Myopathy.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2019,
Assessment of Bee Venom Therapy in Animal Model of Statin-induced Myopathy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
Assessment of Bee Venom Therapy in Animal Model of Statin-induced Myopathy [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 May 14 [cited 2022 May 23]. Available from:
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