Medical News Today, 3/19/2015
Compared with spiders, we tend to have a higher tolerance for bees. Though they seem incapable of finding their way back out of an open window they just flew through - making us do a lot of curtain-flapping and arm-waving - they are responsible for producing one of the nation's most-loved foods: honey.
But according to scientists, these insects are capable of so much more. In 2013, MNT reported on a study published in Antiviral Therapy, in which researchers revealed how a toxin found in bee venom - melittin - has the potential to destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The investigators, from the Washington University School of Medicine, explained that melittin is able to make holes in the protective, double-layered membrane that surrounds the HIV virus. Delivering high levels of the toxin to the virus via nanoparticles could be an effective way to kill it.
Study author Dr. Joshua L. Hood believes these findings could lead to the creation of a vaginal gel to halt HIV transmission. "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," he explained.
A more recent study published in September 2014 claims bees may also be useful for creating a new class of antibiotics. Researchers from the Lund University in Sweden discovered lactic acid bacteria in fresh honey found in the stomachs of bees that has antimicrobial properties.
The team found that the bacteria is effective against a number of drug-resistant pathogens responsible for potentially life-threatening infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
At a time when existing antibiotics are increasingly failing to work against such infections, the researchers say their findings suggest a viable alternative.