Over the last several years, consumers of various scientific literature may have read about an antibiotic resistance crisis. When Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin back in the late 1920s, it opened the door to a whole new realm of health care treatment via antibiotics. But now reports in journals like Nature discuss how “we have now reached a crisis where many antibiotics are no longer effective against even the simplest infections.”
But a study from Australian scientists have shown that an ingredient in cannabis could provide an answer to bacteria that has proven resistant, or in some cases impossible, to treat. That would be none other than cannabidiol, better known as CBD. These Aussie scientists found that CBD was effective in killing all strains of bacteria they tested in the lab, including ones currently thwarting modern medicine.
Even after the bacteria was exposed to CBD more than 20 days—the time frame in which some bacteria can survive against current antibiotics—it did not become treatment-resistant to the non-psychoactive component in cannabis. As Newsweek first reported, the scientists showed CBD as effective against a group of “Gram-positive” bacteria, including the kind that causes conditions like pneumonia and MRSA.
“We still don’t know how it works, and it may have a unique mechanism of action given it works against bacteria that have become resistant to other antibiotics, but we still don’t know how,” study leader Mark Blaskovich, a senior research chemist at the Centre for Superbug Solutions, told Newsweek.
In a preliminary study, the researchers also found CBD effective in treating skin condition and using it in mice studies. Blaskovich said compounds like CBD could perhaps be used as antibiotics, but they haven’t been studied properly yet.
“So far, we have only shown it works topically, on the skin surface,” he said. “To be really useful, it would be good if we could show that it treated systemic infections e.g. pneumonia, or complicated tissue infections, where you have to give it orally or by intravenous dosing. A very preliminary study didn’t show that it works in these more difficult models.”
The work is in its early stages and Blaskovich urged patients they shouldn’t start fully ditching tried-and-true antibiotics in favor of a fully cannabis-based treatment. Still, this study could pave the way for introducing and fast-tracking cannabis into more clinical settings.
“Most of what we have shown has been done in test tubes—it needs a lot more work to show it would be useful to treat infections in humans,” Blaskovich said.