Vaginal nanogel with bee venom could prevent HIV infection

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have taken steps toward the creation of a nanoparticle gel made from bee venom that, when applied vaginally, could help prevent the spread of HIV.

Because bee venom contains a strong toxin, melittin, that perforates and destroys the virus before it can be taken up in the body, it may prove an effective tool for preventative action against the autoimmune disorder, according to the university. Especially in parts of the world where HIV's spread is difficult to control, a vaginal gel could be an important cultural milestone.

The researchers used melittin-loaded nanoparticles against HIV in a way that prevented the toxin from harming friendly cells. By attaching "bumper" molecules to the nanoparticle surface, the toxin can't reach large healthy cells, but the much smaller virus slips through to where the venom can take action. Previous treatments for HIV mostly focus on preventing the replication of the virus, whereas the nanoparticle poses a threat to its structural integrity.

Although the treatment has yet to see clinical trials, the researchers see its potential as a preventative HIV treatment in the form of a vaginal gel among other things. For people who already have HIV infections, for instance, the melittin-based drug injected intravenously could help neutralize otherwise drug-resistant strains.

- here's the Washington University story