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Research Further Demonstrates CBD’s Antimicrobial Properties

March 9, 2021 12:35 pm ET
Research Further Demonstrates CBD’s Antimicrobial Properties

Drug-resistant diseases such as gonorrhea and meningitis may have a new force to fear as the antimicrobial properties of cannabis continues to show its effectiveness in a new study. The study looked at the antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol (CBD) since “antimicrobial resistance threatens the viability of modern medicine”. A team of researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland and at Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited found, for the first time, that CBD is effective in killing Gram-negative bacteria which could mean that a new class of antibiotics can be developed for bacteria which is resistant to other forms of pharmaceutical medications. 

Antimicrobial Potential and Gram-negative Bacteria Explained

An antimicrobial is a force that can kill microorganisms, or at least hinder their growth. With this in mind, antimicrobial potential means to have the capacity to kill or slow down the harmful microorganisms, which may have been resistant to other forms of pharmaceutical medications and treatments. 

Gram-negative bacteria are explained as being “among the most significant public health problems in the world due to high resistance to antibiotics”. Gram-negative bacteria are classified by the color they turn after a chemical process called Gram staining. These bacteria turn red when the chemical process is applied, while others turn blue. The bacteria turn different colors due to the fact that their cell walls are different. Gram-negative bacteria are enclosed in a protective capsule, which makes them resistant to medications and to the white blood cells that fight infection in our bodies. For these reasons, gram-negative bacteria are classified as being antimicrobial-resistant. 

What is Antimicrobial Resistance?

The World Health Organization describes antimicrobial resistance as microorganisms such as “bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites” which causes “change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective”. When microorganisms, that are harmful to health, are unaffected by medication, it runs the risk of claiming lives when infected by those microorganisms.  

Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally and is different from antibiotic resistance in the sense that antibiotic resistance occurs “when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections”. WHO also explains that antimicrobial resistance encompasses “resistance to drugs that treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites (e.g malaria or helminths), viruses (e.g HIV) and fungi (e.g candida)”. The government has thus far not been fully committed to addressing the issue of antimicrobial-resistant conditions due to poor surveillance, diminishing tools for diagnosis and treatment as well as poor strategies to prevent and control antimicrobial drug resistance. This is why cannabis as a potential solution should be considered. 

Research Finds That CBD Can Kill Gram-Negative Bacteria

The study found that CBD could be used to kill gram-negative bacteria despite the fact that the bacteria has “an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defense that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate”, according to Dr. Mark Blaskovich, a molecular bioscience professor. 

Dr. Blaskovich stated in the university’s press release that “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. This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram-negative infections discovered and approved since the 1960s, and we can now consider designing new analogs of CBD within improved properties”. 

A significant factor of this study should be acknowledged, which is that they made use of synthetic cannabidiol for the study. Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made, which does not accurately represent that of botanical cannabinoids. However, the variants between synthetic and botanical cannabinoids are mostly concerned by the fact that synthetic cannabinoids are accompanied by more alarming and adverse side-effects when used improperly. This means that synthetic cannabinoids may accurately portray the benefits but should still be used with caution. 

Despite the fact that a synthetic cannabinoid was used, the CBD killed off types of gram-negative bacteria and was said to be particularly good at breaking down the biofilms- which is a slimy build-up that protects the bacteria. The team even tried to see whether a mutated version of the bacteria could eventually “outwit” CBD’s killing power. Dr. Blaskovich commented on the results of trying to test the antimicrobial potential of CBD and whether the bacteria would eventually resist and he stated that “cannabidiol showed a low tendency to cause resistance in bacteria even when we sped up potential development”. 

The team’s effort is not over yet as they state that the “phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and we hope that this will pave the way forward for treatments for gonorrhea, meningitis and legionnaires disease,” and that “Now we have established that cannabidiol is effective against these Gram-negative bacteria, we are looking at its mode of action, improving its activity and finding other similar molecules to open up the way for a new class of antibiotics”. 

Perhaps antimicrobial resistance is the push we needed for cannabis to finally become a part of modern medicine, despite the fact that it has been used as a non-conventional and traditional herbal medication for decades before now. Perhaps by going back to herbal roots, we can move forward beyond the risk and threats of antimicrobial-resistant bacterias causing life-threatening conditions. 

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