By Jennifer Lilonsky ( | First Posted: Mar 17, 2013 02:44 PM EDT

Cavite, Philippines
A bee sting therapist holds a bee to sting the arm of a patient in a bee farm in Silang, Cavite south of Manila June 6, 2012. Farm owner Joel Magsaysay uses bee sting to treat patients with ailments such as hypothyroidism, paralysis and cancer. Magsaysay said the bee's venom contains a potent cocktail of proteins that boost auto-immune system that let the body activate the nerves and heal itself. (Photo : Reuters )

A new study reveals that a component of bee venom, melittin, might be able to provide protection against the HIV infection, a virus that causes AIDS.

Researchers used laboratory tests to see if the nanparticles found in the bee venom can attach to the virus without damaging healthy cells.

The findings could mean that HIV protection could be a reality in the future.

"This is definitely a novel approach," said Antony Gomes, a physiologist at the University of Calcutta.

"There are very few reports available on venom-based treatment against viruses. This type of research has the potential to proceed further for product development."

The research, detailed by Joshua Hood from Washington University in St. Louis and his colleagues in the journal Antiviral Therapy, explains how the laboratory tests revealed that the toxin found in bee venom, melittin, attacked the HIV protein coat and thusly reduced the amount of the virus.

Researchers also used healthy cells from vaginal walls because that is usually the location where HIV is transferred to women. But even though the cells did not seem to be affected by the bee venom, Hood said that these findings could eventually lead to a vaginal gel that can be used in couples in which one partner has HIV and the other does not.

"Particular attention and care must be taken in order to reproduce nanoparticles in a robust and homogenous way to guarantee uniformity of the drug," said Bruno Sarmento who researches biotechnology at the University of Porto in Portugal.

Bruno also said that developing a vaginal gel of this nature would need an adhesive component so that the product remains in the location to prevent HIV from entering the bloodstream.

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