Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that nanoparticles armed with bee venom may be able to destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cells without damaging the surrounding tissue.

“Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses,” wrote Julia Evangelou Strait in a 2013 Washington University in St. Louis news release.

The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection,” said Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine.

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