Can CBD Be Used As An Antibiotic?
The relation of infection to traditional antibiotics
Can CBD be useful for battling resistant bacterial strains? Findings from Australia’s University of Queensland say this could be. But it helps to consider the changing relationship between bacteria and antibiotics before we take a close look at the research.
Antibiotics have been an important tool in the fight against bacteria and diseases, since Alexander Fleming’s pioneering discovery of penicillin in 1928. So while we are still using the same techniques that were tried and tested today, bacteria have developed. Some bacteria, fungi, and parasites are able to adapt and nullify the effectiveness of the medication by forming a resistance when exposed to antibiotics.
It is worth remembering that resistance to antimicrobials was likely to occur anyway, as the bacteria’s genetic code changes over time. However, antibiotic overuse is thought to be a major factor driving the growth of resistant strains.
Antimicrobial resistance, according to the World Health Organisation, “is an extremely severe challenge to global public health, requiring action in all sectors of government and society.” This has driven researchers off the beaten track as they attempt to classify compounds which may be useful in supporting the fight against harmful bacteria. The cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa, is one such compound invoked.
Researchers try new ways of treating pathogens and resistant bacteria
CBD was found to be effective against gramme-positive bacteria by Dr. Mark Blaskovich, Principal Investigator and Program Director for the Society for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery, and Senior Research Officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at Queensland University. Gram-positive bacterial strains include Staphylococcus aureus (common for infections of the skin) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (common in bacterial pneumonia).
Dr. Blaskovich presented his results to the American Society for Microbiology at its annual meeting. Synthetic CBD was used to treat in vitro samples of both forms of gramme-positive bacteria. Results led Dr. Blaskovich to believe that CBD worked at levels comparable to the vancomycin and daptomycin prescription antibiotics. He also found that CBD tended to function against resistant bacteria’s gramme-positive strains, which many conventional antibiotics tend to struggle at.
‘In particular, activity against resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, VISA, VRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae (MDR) and Enterococcus faecalis (VRE) strains was maintained. Cannabidiol was bactericidal, showed low resistance propensity and was active against MRSA biofilms.’
The team also performed a further analysis using topical CBD to treat mice with a skin infection. Again, although the findings were good, it seemed that CBD did not clear the infection but merely decreased the number of bacterial cells.
Can CBD be turn into antibiotic?
Although it would be easy to applaud this work as a big advance in CBD’s antibacterial capabilities, it is still too early to let go of penicillin.
While it is assumed that the effectiveness of CBD can derive from the way it attacks the biofilm surrounding bacterial cells, the authors remain unsure of the mechanism of action of CBD. They have also been able to point out the shortcomings of the analysis. Dr. Blaskovich emphasised that it is much too early for individuals to start self-treating infections with CBD since the findings are in preliminary stages.
The research was also performed in vitro (outside the human body), so there is a possibility that in clinical trials, we will not get the same outcomes. Many compounds in Petris dishes demonstrated antibacterial efficacy but failed at this crucial point. It is worth noting also that both studies were carried out in partnership with Botanix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., A drug company which specialises in CBD topical products.
Nevertheless, this work may be an essential move forward for CBD and countering antimicrobial resistance. CBD is still displaying a strong safety profile and is not considered dangerous, even in large amounts. Luckily, Dr. Blaskovich and his team intend to continue their work by studying CBD in models of infection in animals. The idea is that they would be able to distinguish which bacterial strains it could what, which it could completely destroy and the exact mechanism of action.
Cibdol.com. 2020. Cibdol – Could CBD Be An Antibiotic?. [online] Available at: <https://www.cibdol.com/blog/815-could-cbd-be-an-antibiotic> [Accessed 9 April 2020].