Bee venom may be the answer to defeating HIV.

The toxin melittin, a peptide found in bee sting venom, could serve as a prophylactic against HIV when applied prior to sexual activity, according to a new study. This approach could potentially destroy HIV by creating holes in the envelope that surrounds the virus.

Although melittin can kill viruses, it is a cytolytic, which means it can destroy cells by increasing their permeability. Unfortunately, this negatively affects both the virus and important human cells, according to Itech Post.

The results of a study conducted by investigators from Washington University, found that by attaching melittin to complex nanoparticles, it allows the compound to selectively target HIV without affecting non-viral cells.

The investigators infused the nanoparticles with the bee venom toxin. A protective bumper was then added to the nanoparticle’s surface, which allowed it to bounce off normal cells and leave them intact, according to Itech Post.

When the melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope, it forms pore-link attack complexes that rupture the envelope and strips it off the virus, according to Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, as reported by Itech Post.

Hood noted that the approach could lead to the development of a vaginal gel that stops HIV transmission, and even an intravenous treatment to help individuals already infected with HIV.