Chemical in Bee Venom Kills HIV

By Perrin Ireland | March 17, 2013 9:05 am

Scientists have recently found that a key ingredient in bee venom destroys HIV without harming other cells. The researchers loaded the toxin, called mellitin, onto nanoparticles fashioned with “bumpers” that normal, larger cells bounced off of unharmed. HIV is small enough that it fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticles, where the bee toxin awaits. Melittin on the nanoparticle fuses with the viral envelope and ruptures it, stripping the virus’s shell.

The difference between this technique and existing anti-HIV drugs is that most drugs attempt to inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate, which the virus is able to evolve to evade. These drugs also don’t arrest the initial infection. But melittin attacks the virus’s inherent structure. There’s theoretically no way to develop adaptive evasion responses to that.

The antiviral therapy has implications for areas rampant with HIV, to be used by women in a vaginal preventative gel that prevents the initial infection. Treatments could also be developed for drug-resistant HIV infections, to be delivered intravenously and potentially clear the blood of the infection. There is also the possibility for this treatment being useful for couples in which one member is HIV-positive but who want to have a baby together.

The nanoparticle itself was developed years ago for an artificial blood experiment, but it was lousy at carrying oxygen. It’s proving its worth now as a promising drug-delivery system instead: the particle can be loaded to target all kinds of infections.

Mellitin attacks double-layered membranes, like the kind many viruses use, indiscriminately, which also means that other viruses like Hepatitis B and C, which rely on a protective envelope to evade the body’s immune system, could be slayed by this potent little toxin. Researchers say the nanoparticles are easy enough to make that they can be reproduced for clinical trials soon.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: AIDS, bees, HIV, virus
  • RWK: disruptive tech/guerrilla

    What I Want to know if HOW the scientists discovered that?!?

    I Mean… did a scientist with HIV get stung?

    • Andrew Futral

      yes that is what happened

    • Alex Hollins

      the chemical is a known lysing (cell killing) agent. The main issue was figuring out a way to deliver it just to the HIV. This one was probably chosen as it is a TINY little protein, so works better with the delivery mechanism (a similar mechanism is being looked at to take out cancer cells)

    • King Of Bob

      I suggest you look into research practices.

    • Hugo

      I was gonna post a highly derrogative remark. But then I realized that if I did, you might also lack the ability to comprehend that statement. Did I just contradict my self?

  • Perrin Ireland

    That’s a great question RWK! I will circle back with the researchers and get back to you!

  • Bob

    Awesome! With the baby that was ‘cured’ of HIV recently and now this, it seems like we might finally fix the HIV problem. And it’s another reason to protect the bees- though I guess it could work with other kinds of venom too?

  • Daud Kiango

    So getting attacked by a bee mob after all is not such a bad thing, take their honey and get thankfully healed by being stung, natures way…….. always believed theres a cure in nature, how about snake bites for cancer and a stingray blast for heart conditions, whatever next… wonder what else has mellitin apart from bee stings…. must be a simplier way in nature….

    • Dennis van Vreden

      you’re kidding right?

      • atwas911

        He must be one of them types that has denied all science and assumes that all healing must solely come from the power of prayer.

    • King Of Bob

      You are aware that that is not at all what the article was suggesting, right?

  • Gary Timothy

    So which is it, mellitin or melittin? The article spells it both ways.

    • albertedison98


  • Uchalelulis

    Oh Wow! No wonder the bees had disappeared! They took them to experiment on them! !!!! OH noes!!

    • Marcus Chan

      you did actually read the article, right?

  • Ce Gzz

    hahah but to use what bacterias have to combat plagues in crops…is insane! If you want to vaccinate mosquitoes so they won’t carry some diseases to humans anymore with genetic engineering it is insane! The double moral of humans!

    • King Of Bob

      Is there an English translation of that post?

      • Marcus Chan

        i’m scratching my head as well…

  • Hypatia Hypatia

    Did he write “slayed” or did some editor so it?

    • King Of Bob

      So it what?

      I’m curious why you’re asking. Are you suggesting that it’s use is incorrect or that it isn’t a word? Both are false, I’m just curious which it is.

      • Donald Ryan Webb

        Past tense of ‘slay’ is ‘slew’. ‘So’ is obviously a typo. You wrote ‘it’s’, and so have no business questioning anyone else.

  • Charles Mukiri

    you must be kidding right what about moquitoes and their yelllow fever

  • Ðavid A. Osorio S
  • guest

    I was been suffering hardshiply from HIV/AIDS since 9yrs now, and i happen to have 2 kids for my husband, and now we cannot proceed to have another kids all because of my disease and now i have do all what a human like i and my husband can do just to get my disease healed, i have went to several places to seek for help not even one person could ever help, until i melt a comment on the daily news paper that was commented by Miss Marilyn about how this powerful traditional doctor help her get cured of the disease (HIV-AIDS) ” my fellow beloved” i firstly taugh having a help from a spiritual traditional healer was a wrong idea, but i think of these, will i continue to stress on these disease all day when i have someone to help me save my life?” so i gather all my faiths and put in all interest to contact him through his Email address at dragbadilaguspelltemple@g , so after i have mailed him of helping get my disease cured, i respond to me fast as possible that i should not be afraid, that he is a truthful and powerful doctor which i firstly claimed him to be. So after all set has been done, he promise me that i will be healed but on a condition that i provide him some items and obeyed all his oracle said. I did all by accepting his oracolous fact and only to see that the following week Dr Agbadi mail me on my mail box that my work is successfully done with his powers, i was first shocked and later arrise to be the happiest woman on earth after i have concluded my final test on the hospital by my doctor that i am now HIV- Negative. My papers for check are with me and now i am happy and glad for his miraculous help and power.
    With these i must to everyone who might seek for anyhelp, either for HIV cure or much more to contact him now at these following email now,
    ” sir thank you so much for your immediate cure of my disease, i must say for curing my disease, i owe you in return. Thanks and be blessed sir.
    His Email address is:


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About Perrin Ireland

Perrin Ireland is a visual science storyteller. She is a lifelong doodler, a learner who needs to visualize scientific concepts in order to understand them. She is Senior Science Communications Specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she helps creatively tell the stories of the science that underlies NRDC's work.


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