HIV, cancer: Bee venom to the rescue

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Scientists have discovered that apart from pollinating  crops, producing honey, beeswax , propolis, pollen and royal jelly, bees could also be the solution to the deadly Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and cancer.

Recently, a team of scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine, USA, used nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom  to destroy HIV without harming nearby cells.

The report was contained in the current issue of Antiviral Therapy.

Explaining the modus operandi, Dr. Samuel A. Wickline, one of the researchers said; “Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV and other viruses. It has even shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.”

In an interview with Vanguard in Ibadan recently, Mr. Ayodele Salako, an apiculturist (beekeeper), corroborated the assertion of the researchers. “The bee sting is very medicinal. A bee keeper who is stung by a bee every now and then,  will not complain of any ailment because the bees have taken those things away from you by enhancing your immunity. That is one of the best works of bee venom.”

He demonstrated this by administering bee venom therapy on some people with pains in various parts of the body like the waist, hands and knees. All recipients said the pains stopped after a few minutes.

Comparing the bee venom and other anti-HIV drugs, Joshua L. Hood, another researcher said “most anti-HIV drugs inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. But this anti-replication strategy does nothing to stop initial infection, and some strains of the virus have found ways around these drugs and reproduce anyway. The bee venom toxin is different because it attacks an essential part of the virus’ structure. The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.

“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” said Hood, “and 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 it,” so if the covering is destroyed, the virus is destroyed.

“Because the bee venom toxin has been engineered not to attack healthy cells, a vaginal gel loaded with bee venom particles, could be ideal for couples where one partner has HIV and they want to have a baby,” the report said, adding; “It’s also theoretically possible that intravenous injections of the nanoparticles would be able to clear HIV from the blood stream, a virtual miracle for those who have tested positive.”

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