Bees are essential for human survival, mainly because of their ability to pollinate our crops.
They also produce one of the most healing foods- honey.
By a recent study found that bees may have more implications for human health.
Bee Venom: An HIV Cure?
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have concluded that a toxin found in bee venom can destroy the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed.
The toxin, called melittin, pierces through the protective envelope surrounding the virus, in order to fight the virus’ natural defense system (1).
“Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope,” said research instructor Joshua L. Hood, MD, Ph.D. “The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.” Adding, “We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV. Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”(2)
Researchers have found that this method even works on drug-resistant strains of the virus. They also believe that this technology could be used in an anti-HIV vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV.
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Currently, 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to amFAR. It’s estimated that each day, almost 7,000 people contract HIV around the globe. Hence, this method could potential save the lives of countless individuals who have contracted HIV or are born with the disease.
How It Works
Through their research, the scientific team suggested nanoparticles that are smaller than the virus and infused with melittin could be injected intravenously to clear HIV from the bloodstream of infected patients (3).
The nanoparticles used in the study were covered by a protective bumper, which allowed them to come into contact with healthy cells without damaging them.
“The basic particle that we are using in these experiments was developed many years ago as an artificial blood product,” Hood says. “It didn’t work very well for delivering oxygen, but it circulates safely in the body and gives us a nice platform that we can adapt to fight different kinds of infections.”
Successful HIV drugs already exist, but they can carry a hefty price tag and must be used by patients throughout their life. These drugs have the power to reverse HIV in babies born to HIV-positive mothers and can prevent infection in the partners of HIV-positive patients to allow them to have healthy biological children (4).
The application of the Washington University study’s findings, however, would mean that patients would no longer have to rely on these drugs to survive.
Another group of experts from Philadelphia’s Temple University took HIV research to the next level by altering genes using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to remove HIV-1 DNA out of the human genome. HIV was reintroduced to edited genomes and could not infect the edited genes (5).
They concluded: “These observations suggest that a cure strategy for HIV-1 infection should include methods that directly eliminate the pro-viral genome from the majority of HIV-1-positive cells, including CD4+ T-cells, and protect cells from future infection, with little or no harm to the host. The results point toward this approach as a promising potential therapeutic avenue to eradicating HIV-1 from T reservoir cells of host patients, to prevent AIDS re-emergence.”
While these results are promising, the road to a new cure is still long and winding. Hopefully, thanks to all these studies, HIV/AIDS will one day be a simple viral infection just easily cured as chickenpox or the flu.