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Nanoparticles with Bee Venom can Fight HIV: Study

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Mar 09, 2013 03:28 AM EST
bee venom coated nanoparticles
Nanoparticles (purple) carrying melittin (green) fuse with HIV (small circles with spiked outer ring), destroying the virus’s protective envelope. Molecular bumpers (small red ovals) prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells, which are much larger in size. (Photo : JOSHUA L. HOOD, MD, PHD/ Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis)

According to a new study, bee venom can kill human immunodeficiency virus. Researchers report that they are developing a new kind of vaginal gel using the bee venom that will protect couples from the spread of HIV.

The study was conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who found that a toxin present in the bee venom called melittin can puncture the outer envelope 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," says Joshua L. Hood, M.D., a research instructor in medicine.

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Bee venom has also been touted as a potential treatment against cancer. Previously, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis had reported that bee toxin melittin can kill tumors without affecting the surrounding cells.

The melittin coated nanoparticles attack HIV cells and not other cells because researchers have added "protective bumpers" on the surface of the cells. Since healthy cells are large, the nanoparticles simply bounce off the surface. However, because of its small size, HIV gets caught in the nanoparticles where it is attacked by the bee toxin.

"Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope. The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus," Hood said in a news release.

Researchers believe the bee toxin is better for fighting against HIV because it attacks the structure of the virus rather than its ability to make multiple copies of itself - a strategy adopted by many antiviral drugs available today.

"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."

Hood added that the toxin can also be used to fight treatment-resistant HIV infection. The drug could be intravenously injected in the body where it could clear the HIV present in the blood. The toxin coated nanoparticle can also be used against other viruses like Hepatitis B and C.

An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

According to the World Health Organization, there were over 34 million people living with HIV AIDS in the world, last year.

Researchers add that the nanoparticles are safe for the sperm as they are for vaginal cells.

The study is published in the journal Antiviral Therapy. 

 

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