Could a compound from the cannabis plant become a weapon in the war against drug-resistant superbugs? While there's still a lot of research to do, that question is not quite as hippy-dippy ridiculous as it might have once sounded.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been touted for a wide variety of health benefits, most notably as a treatment for people with certain forms of epilepsy. Now, new research is showing that CBD is surprisingly effective at killing bacteria in a petri dish, including those responsible for many serious infections, such as staph and its drug-resistant sibling, MRSA. In fact, CBD even appears to be just as effective as widely used antibiotics at killing bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, scientists from the University of Queensland suggest that their work shows how CBD could be used to develop new treatments against gram-positive bacterial infections and even superbugs that have become resistant to conventional antibiotics.
It's worth noting that the study was conducted in collaboration with Botanix Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company that produces CBD-based products.
"Given cannabidiol's documented anti-inflammatory effects, existing safety data in humans, and potential for varied delivery routes, it is a promising new antibiotic worth further investigation," said Dr Mark Blaskovich at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience's Centre for Superbug Solutions, according to a press release.
"The combination of inherent antimicrobial activity and potential to reduce damage caused by the inflammatory response to infections is particularly attractive."
CBD is a compound found in cannabis plants, but it’s non-psychoactive so it doesn’t make you high. A bunch of studies have also shown that it’s extremely well tolerated by humans, with very little risk of abuse or dependency, according to the World Health Organization. Many of its more ambitious claims are yet to be confirmed by scientific evidence.
Needless to say, this doesn’t mean you should be treating your infections with CBD oil or any other cannabis-related product. These findings have so far only been tested on the tissues of mice and in a petri dish, so it's still very early days for the research. Equally, the researchers have no real grasp of the mechanism of action. It also remains unseen whether these effects will actually be seen in humans. After all, honey has well-known antimicrobial properties, but it’s hardly recommended to use it like Bactine on a cut.
Despite these limitations, the study goes to show how CBD is a largely unexplored realm for science. Although many of its more lofty claims have the potential to fall flat, there are undoubtedly some fascinating insights to uncover from this long-overlooked compound.
“What may be really exciting, but we don’t know yet, is how it works. If it kills bacteria by a new mechanism not used by existing antibiotics, that would be really exciting,” added Dr Blaskovich, according to i News.