Cannabis plants contain a compound that could wipe out multidrug-resistant bacteria, offering a new ray of hope in the fight against serious infections caused by superbugs.
Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, studied five compounds of cannabis plants for their antibacterial properties. They found that one compound called cannabigerol (CBG) was particularly found to be potent at killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a common hospital superbug.
The researchers found that CBG, which is not a psychoactive stimulant like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), killed common MRSA superbugs and “persister” cells that are resistant to antibiotics and often cause repeated infections.
Looking at the efficacy of CBG in killing bacteria, the researchers decided to test the compound’s ability to treat bacterial infections in mice.
They found that CBD cured MRSA infections as effective as vancomycin in mice. Vancomycin is an antibacterial drug that is considered to be the last line of treatment against microbes resistant to other antibiotics.
Lead researcher and microbiologist Eric Brown said, “Cannabinoids were clearly great drug-like compounds.” However, he noted that it is too early to assess the compound’s use in the clinic.
“There is much work to do to explore the potential of the cannabinoids as antibiotics from the safety standpoint,” Brown said.
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a major problem. It is a threat to public health, which is why there is an urgency to explore new drugs and treatments.
The researchers said the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance has driven an urgent need to invent new sources of drugs. The last antibiotic is believed to be invented 30 years ago.
Brown and his team found that CBG did not work well against gram-negative multi-drug resistant bugs. However, they went on to show that CBG wiped out the drug-resistant bacteria when it was used with small quantities of polymyxin B, an antibiotic that disrupts the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria.
The researchers explained that CBG and other cannabinoids fight off invading pathogens; however, but there are other ways to produce CBG.
So, to dig deep, Brown and his team synthesized the compound in the lab with the chemicals called olivetol and geraniol. He said, “We are now pursuing the required paperwork to work with a wide variety of cannabinoids.”
Dr. Mark Blaskovich, who studies antibiotic cannabis compounds, said, “Cannabis seemed to be particularly rich in antibiotics, though other plants such as tea tree, garlic and the spices turmeric and curcumin also contained antibacterials.”
Dr. Blaskovich is a Principal Investigator and Program Coordinator for the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery. He is also a Senior Research Officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland.
“These are likely made as a defense mechanism to protect the plant from bacterial and fungal infections, but to date have not been very useful for human infections as they really only work outside the body,” said Dr. Blaskovich. “That’s what makes this new report potentially exciting – evidence that cannabigerol is able to treat a systemic infection in mice.”