Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom
can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. This
finding is an important step toward developing a
vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS.
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. In fact,
melittin-loaded nanoparticles have shown to be
effective in killing tumor cells.
Joshua Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor at
Washington University School of Medicine, is the
senior author of the research paper that reports
In the diagram at right, 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.