Created on: March 12, 2013
Since the 1980s the fight against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has taken many strange twists and turns. Medical researchers have inched forward during the decades discovering ways to slow the progress of the deadly disease, but finding a cure or preventing the spread of the disease has proved elusive. The problem's been the virus's almost uncanny ability to hide in the human body eluding detection by the immune system it's attacking.
Now a team of researchers have made a startling discovery that could lead to the eradication of HIV and the subsequent development of AIDs. The powerful venom in common bees kills HIV. This remarkable discovery may permit the development of a topical gel blocking HIV transmission.
The team of researchers at St. Louis' Washington University published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal, Antivral Therapy. The study, "Cytolytic nanoparticles attenuate HIV-1 infectivity," reveals that nanoparticles carrying the bee venom toxin melittin destroys HIV while not harming any of the body's healthy cells.
Development of antiviral gel
The medical scientists hope to develop a vaginal gel that will eliminate the transmission of HIV from one sexual partner to another. By stopping the virus from invading another person the transmission chain can be broken and eventually the virus eradicated.
Other possible applications could be a topical agent applied to the penis or condoms coated with the nanoparticle gel embedded with a derivative of the bee toxin.
The cost of the prevention would be low and some countries in the Third World ravaged by the disease would be immediately helped.
Bonding the melittin to nanoparticles the team created that are tinier than the HIV virus cellular structure, the toxin easily invaded the virus and annihilated it.
"Based on this finding," the authors wrote, "we propose that melittin-loaded nanoparticles are well-suited for use as topical vaginal HIV virucidal agents."
Virologists speculate the approach might be adapted to permit nanoparticle injection of the toxin into the bloodstream effectively hunting down and killing the HIV virus in the blood. The virus uses the bloodstream to travel to different parts of the body.
"When researchers loaded the toxin into nanoparticles," healthline.com notes, "they found that it didn’t harm normal cells because of a protective bumper added to the nanoparticle’s surface. Because HIV cells are smaller than regular cells, they slide between the bumpers while leaving healthy, normal cells intact.
"Most current HIV treatments focus on inhibiting HIV’s ability to replicate, but do nothing to stop the initial infection. However, researchers say that because the venom-laced nanoparticles attack a crucial part of HIV’s structure, they can kill before the virus has a chance to infect a person."
Clinical trials are planned to begin in the near future.
Learn more about this author, Terrence Aym.
Click here to send this author comments or questions.
Below are the top articles rated and ranked by Helium members on:
Breakthrough study finds bee venom kills HIV