Research Discovers Antibiotic Potential of Cannabis Compounds

21st January 2021

New research carried out at the University of Queensland, Australia, has demonstrated that a cannabis compound may have the ability to kill harmful bacteria in diseases including gonorrhoea, meningitis, and legionnaires. This would make compound the first antibiotic class in 60 years to kill off the resistant bacteria. 

One of the most common cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant – CBD – has been found to have surprising potential in battling a number of diseases. Non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most well-known cannabis derivatives, with a budding global industry emerging in recent years. The compound has been embraced by the wellness and medical community alike.

While the cannabinoid has been implicated as a possible treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain, and spasticity among other conditions and symptoms, Epidyolex became the first CBD-based medicine licensed in the UK for the treatment of treatment-resistant epilepsy.

This new research, which used a synthetic version of CBD, has now extended the possible uses of this versatile cannabinoid. The laboratory studies, carried out at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, represent the first-time CBD has been seen to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria.

Cannabis plant
Cannabis plants

In a statement, Director at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Dr David Mark Blaskovich said:

“These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defence that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate. We think that cannabidiol kills bacteria by bursting their outer cell membranes, but we don’t know yet exactly how it does that, and need to do further research.”

Researchers will use their current findings to progress their understanding of how CBD can be used as an antibiotic and antimicrobial in the future. Further trials of CBD formulations are already underway, and Botanic Pharmaceuticals – who collaborated on the research – are planning to progress a topical CBD formulation to clinical trials.

Dr Blaskovich told the Courier Mail: ‘We want something that doesn’t break down in the body as quickly as CBD does. There’s definitely potential there that CBD could be a prototypical representative of a new class of antibiotics.’

While this research may represent a promising line of investigation in the development of antibiotics, Dr Blaskvich estimates that it could still be 10-15 years before the synthetic CBD preparation is approved for use as an antibiotic.

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