JAN 22, 2020 7:39 AM PST

Antibiotic Properties Found in Cannabis Compound

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance, when bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics, as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development that we face today. Perhaps tackling this issue, researchers have now identified a compound found in cannabis that may be able to wipe out drug-resistant bacteria. 

Although the antibacterial properties of cannabinoids had been known for some time, until now, scientists were unsure on how they could be used to fight antibiotic resistance. Thus, to understand whether this could be the case, a group of researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, screened five cannabis compounds known to have antibiotic properties. 

In particular, they found that cannabigerol (CBG) was particularly adept at neutralizing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most common hospital superbugs. Although often only responsible for mild infections, as it is largely resistant to antibiotics, it has also been known to lead to some lethal conditions. 

When studied under lab conditions, the researchers observed how CBG, not a psychoactive substance, was able to kill common MRSA microbes and “persister” cells that are otherwise resistant to antibiotics and thus often lead to repeat infections. More than this, the compound was observed to also be capable of removing “biofilms” (usually very difficult to get rid of) that form on the skin and medical implants. 

After seeing its efficacy in a petri dish, the researchers decided to see how it would function in animal models. They therefore began to use the compound to treat infections in mice. In doing so, they found that CBG was abet o cure mice of MRSA infections as effectively as antibiotic vancomycin, otherwise considered a last resort treatment for MRSA infections. 

Although promising results, the researchers nevertheless warn that these are “early days” and the compound needs to undergo many more tests, as well as human trials, before it may be considered as a potential treatment option for antibiotic resistant bacteria. In particular, Eric Brown, who led the study said, “There is much work to do to explore the potential of the cannabinoids as antibiotics from the safety standpoint.”

 

Sources: World Health Organization, The Guardian and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in public relations and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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