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 these findings.
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.