Could Bees Hold The Cure To HIV?

Western Honey Bee
Western Honey Bee (Photo credit: Aditi-the-Stargazer)

A recent study by St. Louis’ Washington University School of Medicine has indicated that we are one step closer to a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This news gives hope to the 34 million people worldwide, who are currently living with HIV or AIDS.

Bee Venom Can Destroy HIV

A study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and published in the journal Antiviral Therapy, claims that the common bee may be the answer to killing off HIV; the virus that leads to the development of AIDS.

Bee venom carries a toxin called melittin, which has been proven to destroy the human immunodeficiency virus. The toxin works by poking holes in the virus’s outer layer. This outer layer envelope protects the virus; and without it, the virus eventually dies. Furthermore, this toxin found in bee venom kills HIV while leaving the other cells in the body unharmed.

Because the bee venom toxin attacks the virus’ outer layer, the virus is likely unable to develop a resistance to the melittin. Researches believe that this development may make it more effective than other HIV drugs, which the virus eventually develops a resistance to. Current HIV drugs only prevent the virus from replicating and do nothing to kill it off like the bee toxin does.

How The Process Works

Nanoparticles that are smaller than HIV are infused with the bee venom toxin, melittin. These melittin infused nanoparticles then fuse with the HIV’s viral envelope. The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus, attacking a natural physical property of HIV. Hypothetically, there isn’t any way for the virus to acclimatize to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that encompasses the virus.

Molecular bumpers prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells, which are much larger in size.

HIV Particle
HIV Particle (Photo credit: AJC1)

How The Bee Venom Toxin Is Administered

If you are living with HIV or AIDS, the solution won’t be as simple as getting stung a couple dozen times by a honey bee. Remember, the melittin, or bee venom toxin must be in the form of a nanoparticle; and it needs to be in a highly concentrated form.

Currently, scientists and researchers are looking at implementing the bee toxin in the form of a topical gel, and also administering it intravenously. The gel is for HIV prevention, while intravenous injections will treat those already infected with HIV or AIDS.

Potential Cures To Other Diseases

Since melittin attacks double-layered membranes arbitrarily, this concept is not limited to HIV alone. Many viruses, including hepatitis C and B, rely on the same kind of protective envelope and would be vulnerable to melittin-loaded nanoparticles.

Additionally, research has revealed melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be successful in killing tumor cells. This is potentially a huge step in cancer research, with almost unlimited medical adaptations.

Bee venom has been used to treat arthritis and other painful conditions as well.

Honey bee with tongue partially extended
Honey bee with tongue partially extended (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bees & Their Venom

Bees are a very valuable group of insects that still have much to teach us as a society. They play key roles in pollinating flowering plants, and help in controlling the numbers of many other species of pests.

While being beneficial insects, bees do carry toxic venom. The main component of bee venom responsible for pain is the toxin melittin. Histamine may also contribute to pain and itching after a bee sting.

Out of the 54 reported insect deaths each year, 14 are caused by bee stings. Bee sting deaths are usually only common when the victim has an allergic reaction to a bee sting.


HIV destroys T-cells, which are the white blood cells vital to sustaining the functionality of the immune system. As HIV attacks these cells, the person infected with the virus is less equipped to fight off infection and disease, ultimately resulting in the development of AIDS. Most people who are infected with HIV can carry the virus for years before developing any serious or deadly symptoms. Over time, HIV levels increase in the blood while the number of T-cells decreases. It’s about this time an individual living with HIV becomes very ill, and can eventually die.

According to recent data, more than 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Of these 34 million, some 3.3 million are under the age of 15 years old. Each day, almost 7,000 people contract HIV around the globe.

Let’s hope this bee venom research is a solution to a disease that is affecting so many worldwide.



Anthony Ball is a Content Marketing Manager with Bulwark Exterminating, an industry leader in providing high quality pest control service. Bulwark is fully operational in nine states, including thirteen major cities. While Bulwark provides pest extermination for common pests like ants, roaches, crickets and spiders; the company's differentiating aspect is great personalized service. Bulwark uses the finest and most effective products in the world to solve common pest problems.

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3 thoughts on “Could Bees Hold The Cure To HIV?

  1. Now, only if we can find what is killing our bees. This could be a bigger issue than HIV if a resolution to hive populations declining isn’t found soon. Great info!

  2. Nice work Thomas. The medical community here is St. Louis is doing some incredible things. Some people are not aware of all of the medical innovations that originate from here in the STL. It makes me proud to be a St. Louisan. Thanks for bringing visibility to it!

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