Bee Venom for HIVby Dr. Jagdev Singh 30-Aug-2013
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Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a dreaded disease transmitted sexually and caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The structure of HIV has been researched extensively since its discovery in 1983, in order to develop a cure. The virus has two strands of ribonucleic Acid (RNA), the genetic material that codes for proteins, essential for viral replication and spread of infection. HIV destroys the helper T-lymphocytes, which makes the immune system very weak and thus the infected person is affected by all pathogens he or she is exposed to. Since the immune system is itself compromised, AIDS has been considered incurable so far. But, extensive researches are being carried out to develop an effective cure.
Apitoxin – an effective cure
Apitoxin or bee venom has been used in alternative medicine for a long time. Its medicinal properties have been exploited and it’s known to treat insomnia, headache as well as other systemic disorders. Bees usually die after they sting a person and the sting is very painful. But, the injected venom is a powerful protein that can cure several types of tumors. Recently bee venom is also being studied for its anti-virulent properties and its potential of destroying HIV. The active component in bee venom that could be a potential cure for AIDS is a small peptide called melittin.
Mechanism of melittin’s action against HIV
The peptide in bee venom is amphipathic in nature i.e. hydrophilic on one side and lipophilic on the other side. This facilitates the easy incorporation of melittin in the Phospho-lipid bilayer membrane that encloses the viral genome and matrix of HIV. Once the outer layer is disrupted, the virus cannot survive. Also, melittin interferes with ion transport across the membrane. Several techniques to destroy HIV have been studied but these are primarily targeted towards the ribonucleic acid genome of the virus and they have not been as successful as the bee venom.
Nanotechnology aided bee venom treatment for AIDS
Recently scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine have found a unique way of transporting the bee venom through nanoparticles. Nanoparticles act as vehicles that carry melittin and deliver it to the viral surface. The bee venom is targeted only against HIV and it does not affect the normal human cells. The bumpers on the surface of the nanoparticles attach only to the viruses that are smaller than the drug and the larger normal cells repelling them. This kind of targeted drug delivery approach is a major breakthrough in AIDS research. Also, scientists are aiming at developing a vaginal gel preparation with these nanoparticles that could be used to ensure safe sexual relationship between partners one of whom might be HIV positive.
Bee venom for HIV can be used in both treatment and prevention of AIDS. The apitoxin has been used to save an infected child born with HIV and it also provides a means for HIV positive parents to have a healthy, normal child. Further research can surely yield as a permanent cure for AIDS and it would no longer be dreaded as a killer disease.