Analysts Cautious toward HIV Solution; Say It's 'Too Soon to Tell' If Bee Venom Is a Legitimate Treatment of the Virus

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Analysts Cautious toward HIV Solution; Say It's 'Too Soon to Tell' If Bee Venom Is a Legitimate Treatment of the Virus


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A study showing that a toxin in bee venom can kill HIV has set the Internet abuzz, but some veterans in the battle against HIV/AIDS caution that such early findings should always be greeted with caution.

So, is bee venom the next big thing in fighting HIV, asked Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a global advocacy organization for AIDS prevention. Don't know. Too soon to tell, he said.

The bee-venom study was published recently in the journal Antiviral Therapy by Washington University School of Medicine researchers in St. Louis.

Their news made headlines a few days after the federal government said a child had been functionally cured of HIV, thanks to months of receiving antiretroviral medicines.

Typically, these treatments permit people to manage their infections, but they are not a cure.

According to authors of the study, the toxin in bee venom - known as melittin - was lethal to HIV in laboratory tests.

Melittin was loaded into nanoparticles and inserted into human cells. When the melittin-infused nanoparticles met normal cells, they were harmless. But when they contacted the HIV, they rupture[d] the virus's protective coat and killed it.

We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV, said Dr. Joshua L. Hood, a research instructor in medicine at Washington University. Theoretically, there isn't any way for the virus to adapt to defeat the toxin, he added, noting that the virus has to have a protective coat.

The new bee-venom therapy could be delivered in a topical vaginal gel or through an injection into the bloodstream of an HIV-infected person, wrote Dr. Hood and his colleagues, adding that they hope to proceed with additional trials to test such a gel.

Mr. Warren of AVAC said that while exciting scientific news should always be celebrated, there's a lot that happens between a publication like this and an actual product that would then potentially have an impact on the epidemic. …

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