The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gave The Medical University of South Carolina researchers $3.7 million to study how smoking cannabis alters the oral microbiome. This will be the first study to explore the cannabis-altered oral microbiome and its effects on the brain. Smoked cannabis flower contains potentially harmful compounds when activated by combustion that can have significant effects on oral health, and vaping can also cause mouth and throat irritation.
Changes in oral bacteria have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, preterm birth, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Dysbiosis happens when unnatural changes in the oral microbiome create conditions that allow harmful bacteria to thrive in the mouth and enter the bloodstream. Bacterium such as Actinomyces meyeri (A. meyeri) pose a risk to organs such as the brain. According to study author Dr. Jiang, A. meyeri is higher in frequent cannabis users but not in tobacco or cocaine users. She explained, “In general, the amount of A. meyeri should be very low in a healthy oral microbiome.” In previous studies, mice orally exposed to A. meyeri for extended periods showed increased inflammation and more amyloid-beta proteins in their brains. These proteins have been linked to long-term memory loss and neurological disease.
Some studies have shown certain cannabinoids provide therapeutic value in promoting oral health, but more research is needed to determine efficacy and safety. Earlier research conducted by Jiang and her colleagues did not specifically look at what component of cannabis impacted the oral microbiome, so the research team plans to identify the specific effects of THC and CBD on dysbiosis and mental health using a mice model. This research may inform screening practices for certain bacteria as biomarkers of different neurological diseases. The new grant funding will enable the MUSC team to explore the mechanisms underlying the link between high levels of A. meyeri in the oral microbiome of frequent cannabis users and neurological disease.
Sources: Eureka News Alert, Medical University of South Carolina