Toxin from bee venom has been shown by a recent study to kill HIV when delivered by nanoparticles. The best part is that these nanoparticles allowed researchers to target the HIV and leave surrounding cells unscathed. What is the goal for researchers with this study? They want to create a gel for women that could potentially stop HIV from spreading from person to person via sexual relations.

In some countries, HIV is a common scourge. The idea is to use such a gel in a preventative capacity. Mellitin is the toxin found in bee venom that has researchers feeling hopeful. It can break through the defenses of HIV particles. Researchers have not only used mellitin in anti-viral research, but also in cancer research because of the potent ability of the toxin to destroy cells.

The way researchers were able to use nanoparticles to deliver the toxin only to the HIV particles is through the creation of protective bumpers on the surface of the nanoparticles. These bumpers are too close together to allow regular cells to come into contact with the toxin. The significantly smaller HIV cells fit right between the bumpers and are destroyed.

While most HIV drugs merely fight to keep the disease from replicating, this toxin can actually destroy the envelope that normally keeps HIV particles safe from all attacks. This envelope adapts to protect the virus from various substances, but the toxin can successfully destroy the coating because it attacks all membranes with double layers – thus hepatitis is another disease that could be attacked using this method (both B and C types).

Another suggested use for the gel besides the prevention of HIV could be in helping couples where only one partner has HIV to conceive naturally without risk to the healthy partner. The gel would only target HIV, not sperm.

The initial experiments were performed in a laboratory, but it would not be very expensive to create enough of the mellitin anti-virus compound to perform clinical trials should the idea reach that stage.