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THC Prevents Lethal Symptoms Of Lung Disease Associated With Viruses in Mice


Jack Dunhill

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

clockJul 3 2020, 14:29 UTC
A cannabis plant from New Mexico.

With relaxing measures and more research, it’s turning out that cannabis may have far more applications than just getting high. Currently involved in treatments for neurological, mental health, and chronic pain disorders, cannabis isolates, taken in the right way, might have loads of benefits that are yet to be discovered. 

New research published in Frontiers In Pharmacology has shown that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive component of cannabis that gives you the high – can prevent the lethal symptoms of a lung disorder associated with Covid-19, influenza, and more, at least in mice.


Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) affects more than 3 million people worldwide every year. Usually, following infection of the lungs, patients get rapid inflammation, shortness of breath, and bluish skin. It's fatal in 35-50 percent of people. With Covid-19 raging, ARDS is a serious complication and any treatment for it might be helpful in the ongoing battle against the pandemic.

THC might protect against an inflammatory storm

THC might have more roles than getting you high. Credit: Christina Winter via Unsplash

In patients with respiratory disease, the lethal symptoms associated with ARDS usually follow a surge of signals in the lungs called a cytokine storm. Cytokines are small messengers released in the body and are important in the immune system when the body is under attack from infection. They can either be pro-inflammatory, where they tell the body to react to the site of infection with immune cells, or anti-inflammatory, where they slow the reaction down and stop immune cells damaging the area too much. In respiratory diseases, sometimes the immune system overreacts and releases too many pro-inflammatory cytokines, causing hyperinflammation and possible death. This is a cytokine storm.


To see if THC could help, Amira Mohammed and a team at the University of South Carolina treated mice with ARDS with THC. THC has been shown to act as an antiinflammatory agent, so it seemed likely to the team that it could have a role in stopping inflammation in the lungs. They found that in 100 percent of cases, THC protected the mice against lethal symptoms that happen after a cytokine storm by blocking the pro-inflammatory cytokines that bring immune cells to the area and cause damage. Not only this, THC actually increased the anti-inflammatory activity, slowing the inflammation and stopping the severe damage caused.

Together these findings suggest a possible route to stop cytokine storms and serious complications in patients with respiratory illness. Of course, this study was only on mice and would need much more testing and clinical trials before it could become a possible therapy – but it does show an interesting application for marijuana for the future.

ARDS is a serious problem for those weakened by lung disease, and any potential ailments could have a massive impact on patient quality of life as well as survival. Hopefully, this research translates to humans, but in the meantime, complications will have to be fought off in more traditional ways.   

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