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Could Bee venom help to halt HIV transmission?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS runs rampant through much of Africa. It is here that the much-feared incurable condition leads to entire villages being wiped out, with entire populations incapacitated. According to some recent research, however, there is hope that something commonly found in nature can now be used to prevent the transmission of the disease - bee venom.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In recent trial experiments, bee venom has been shown to kill the virus while leaving body cells unharmed, which could lead to an anti-HIV vaginal gel among other treatments.

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that melittin; a toxin found in the venom destroys the HIV virus. This may very well lead to a breakthrough that could potentially lead to drugs that are immune to HIV resistance.

"Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this as a preventative measure to stop the initial infection," Joshua Hood, one of the authors of the study that was published last week in the journal Antiviral Therapy.

Researchers attached melittin to nanoparticles, which are physically smaller than HIV, smaller than body cells. The toxin rips holes in the virus' outer layer, destroying it, but the particles aren't large enough to damage body cells.

"Based on this finding, we propose that melittin-loaded nanoparticles are well-suited for use as topical vaginal HIV virucidal agents," the researchers wrote.

The particles could also be theoretically injected into an HIV-positive person to eliminate the virus in the bloodstream.

As the toxin attacks the virus' outer layer, the virus is likely unable to develop a resistance to the substance, which could make it more effective than other HIV drugs.

"Theoretically, melittin nanoparticles are not susceptible to HIV mutational resistance seen with standard HIV therapies," they write. "By disintegrating the [virus'] lipid envelope [it's] less likely to develop resistance to the melittin nanoparticles."

The gel is scheduled to be tried in clinical trials.

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