ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) — Researchers have found a new way to combat HIV – bee venom.
The study, conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, shows that the toxin melittin found in bee venom destroys HIV while leaving the surrounding normal cells unharmed.
“Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope,” Dr. Joshua Hood said in a press release. “The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.”
Researchers believe this finding can lead to a vaginal gel that can prevent the spread of HIV.
“Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection,” Hood said.
The study’s findings show that protective bumpers added to the nanoparticle’s surface, which is loaded with melittin, stops the venom from harming healthy cells.
The nanoparticle appears to “bounce off” of the normal cells because of their larger size, but with HIV cells being smaller than the nanoparticle, those cells make contact with the nanoparticle loaded with the bee venom.
“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Hood said. “Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”
Outside of using this type of bee venom as a gel, researchers hope that these nanoparticles can be injected intravenously in an effort to rid the virus from the blood stream.
Hood believes that these nanoparticles can be manufactured in large enough quantities for clinical trials.