Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown.
The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“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,” says Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine.
The study appears in the current issue of Antiviral Therapy.
Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper’s senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.