Robin-Lee

It's up for debate

Outfest, Bees, and HIV

leave a comment »

Outfest 2015, October 11, 12-6 p.m. Source: Philly Pride Presents

Outfest 2015, October 11, 12-6 p.m.
Source: Philly Pride Presents

On Sunday, Philadelphia will celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Coming Out Day with its “gayborhood” block party known as Outfest. I’ll be one of the volunteers manning a booth for the Mazzoni Center – a health and wellness facility offering free HIV and STD testing, counseling, etc. – and providing education material on the Center’s services and the latest educational news on prevention and care.

I received my own education today, administered by a sting-happy wasp I ran into while jogging in Cobb’s Creek. Once again, I felt the trace amounts of toxic chemicals flood into my skin albeit a faster and nastier sensation than that of the concoction delivered by the stinging nettle. And how quickly I forgot that wasps could deliver an unlimited load of toxic stings, as it jabbed me repeatedly as I flailed myself stupid in front of passing traffic.

Wasps and stinging nettle, it turns out, have a similar chemical which is partly responsible for the sensation of pain upon injection: serotonin. While I pointed out in a previous post that formic acid was the main perpetrator of pain in the chemical cocktail found in the trichomes of nettles, more recent articles suggest the chemical primarily responsible is serotonin – the same neurotransmitter that affects, among other things, mood and digestion.

The gorgeous Mucuna pruriens, which contains small amounts of serotonin and is touted as an anti-depressant

The gorgeous Mucuna pruriens, which contains small amounts of serotonin and is touted as an anti-depressant

 

It might be tempting, as it was for me, to think that the pain from bee stings derive from the same chemical. However, bee strings are made up of a whole different combination of chemicals, a few of which are also found in wasp venom. One that isn’t found in Vespula (the beautiful genus name for wasps) is mellitin, which destroys blood cells by breaking up their membranes.

So what does all of this have to do with Philadelphia’s Outfest? While bee venom has been used in treatments for multiple sclerosis and gout (watch this video to see, up close, how a bee’s venom sac works upon injection!), mellitin has been shown to “degrade the protective envelope that surrounds HIV” and leaves surrounding cells unharmed.

The same article containing the above quote mentions other potential treatments for combating HIV in the works, and I’m sure I’ll have more uplifting and educational news to share after this weekend!

 

 

Advertisements

Written by Robin Lee Dunlap

October 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: