Research reveals CBD's antibiotic potential

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

getty | stuart gray
getty | stuart gray

Related tags Antibiotics Cbd botanicals

CBD has been shown for the first time to kill the bacteria that are increasingly unresponsive to existing antibiotics.

The collaborative research from The University of Queensland​ and Botanix Pharmaceuticals​ Limited finds that the nonpsychoactive component of cannabis can penetrate and kill a wide range of bacteria including those responsible for gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires disease.

The UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s​ Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich​ said this creates potential for a new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria with the ability to spare the natural microbiome by not killing beneficial commensal bacteria. 

“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 study also showed that CBD was widely effective against a much larger number of Gram-positive bacteria than previously known, including antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus​) or ‘golden staph’.

Dr Blaskovich said cannabidiol was particularly good at breaking down biofilms—the slimy build-up of bacteria, such as dental plaque on the surface of teeth—which help bacteria such as MRSA survive antibiotic treatments.

The research team at the Centre for Superbug Solutions​ mimicked a two-week patient treatment in laboratory models to see how fast the bacteria mutated to try to outwit CBD’s killing power.

“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 added.

“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."

The researchers also discovered that chemical analogs - created by slightly changing CBD’s molecular structure—were also active 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.”

Vince Ippolito, the President and Executive Chairman of Botanix, said the research showed vast potential for the development of effective treatments to fight the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance.

“Our Company is now primed to commercialise viable antimicrobial treatments which we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now.”

The collaboration has enabled Botanix to progress a topical CBD formulation into clinical trials for decolonisation of MRSA 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 gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires disease.

“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.”

Source: Communications Biology

Thurn. M., et al

"The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol"

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