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Allergy sufferers fret over insect-venom shortage

(KAISER HEALTH NEWS) — As summer begins, signaling peak time for insect stings, allergists across the U.S. are warning of a shortage of a little-known but crucial product — honeybee, hornet and wasp venom extracts used in shots that prevent life-threatening reactions.

Supplies of the extracts — which are made from venom gathered by hand from millions of individual insects — have been scarce since October. That’s when one of two manufacturers in the U.S. shut down production after contamination problems. Doctors say they hope the situation will be resolved, but that’s not likely before next year. For now, they’re rationing doses for patients who need them most.

“It’s going to be a rough summer,” said Dr. David Golden, an allergy expert and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.