BRISBANE, Australia — CBD has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity over recent years. As the main non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, CBD has been trumpeted as a cure-all for any number of ailments or conditions ranging from anxiety and stress to joint pain. Now, a new study finds CBD also offers some serious antibiotic properties. For the first time ever, researchers from The University of Queensland have shown that CBD is capable of penetrating and killing the bacteria responsible for conditions including legionnaires disease, gonorrhea, and meningitis.
Study authors, working with Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited, are optimistic this discovery may open the door for the first new class of antibiotics targeting resistant bacteria in 60 years.
“This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defence that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate,” The UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Associate Professor Dr. Mark Blaskovich says in a university release.
Besides gonorrhea, the study also reveals that CBD can combat many other forms of gram-positive bacteria, including notoriously antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as MSRA (golden staph).
Breaking down bacteria
Study authors say CBD excels at breaking down biofilms, which are the slimy left-behind residue of built-up bacteria. Dental plaque on the surface of one’s teeth are an example of biofilm. This is important because biofilms usually help bacteria endure antibiotic attacks.
Researchers recreated a two-week patient treatment plan via lab models to see how fast bacteria mutates in response to CBD.
“Cannabidiol showed a low tendency to cause resistance in bacteria even when we sped up potential development by increasing concentrations of the antibiotic during ‘treatment’,” Dr. Blaskovich explains. “We think that cannabidiol kills bacteria by bursting their outer cell membranes, but we don’t know yet exactly how it does that, and need to do further research.”
Additionally, Dr. Blaskovich and his team report that when they slightly changed CBD’s molecular structure it resulted in the creation of chemical analogs that actively took action against the bacteria.
“This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram-negative infections discovered and approved since the 1960s, and we can now consider designing new analogs of CBD within improved properties,” the researcher adds.
“Congratulations to Dr. Blaskovich and his team for producing this significant body of research–the published data clearly establishes the potential of synthetic cannabinoids as antimicrobials,” says Vince Ippolito, the President and Executive Chairman of Botanix. “Our Company is now primed to commercialize viable antimicrobial treatments which we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now.”
Developing CBD-based antibiotics
Botanix has already submitted a topical CBD “formulation” for clinical trials intended to treat MSRA infections before surgery.
“Those Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and we hope that this will pave the way forward for treatments for gonorrhea, meningitis and legionnaires disease,” Dr. Blaskovich concludes. “Now we have established that cannabidiol is effective against these Gram-negative bacteria, we are looking at its mode of action, improving its activity and finding other similar molecules to open up the way for a new class of antibiotics.”
The study is published in Communications Biology.