CBD as a potential antibiotic

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  • For the first time, research shows that CBD kills gram negative bacteria. This suggests a potential antibiotic based on this substance in the future.

    For the first time, research shows that CBD kills gram negative bacteria. This suggests a potential antibiotic based on this substance in the future.
    Bacteria growing as the synthetic cannabidiol molecule - Credit: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

    A research collaboration between the University of Queensland and Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited could lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years. Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich of the UQ Institute for Molecular Biosciences said that CBD, the main non-psychoactive component in cannabis, can penetrate and kill a wide range of bacteria, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea.

    CBD effective against gram-negative bacteria

    “This is the first time that CBD has been shown to kill certain types of Gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an extra line of defense that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate, ”said Dr Blaskovich.

    In Australia, gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection and there is no longer a single reliable antibiotic to treat it because the bacteria are particularly good at developing resistance. 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 Staphylococcus aureus.

    Dr Blaskovich said cannabidiol is particularly good at breaking down biofilms, the viscous build-up of bacteria, such as dental plaque on the surface of teeth, that help bacteria like MRSA survive antibiotic treatment.

    CBD, a new fighter against bacterial resistance to antibiotics

    Dr. Blaskovich’s team at the Center for Superbug Solutions mimicked a two-week treatment in patients in lab models to see how quickly bacteria mutated in an attempt to thwart the deadly power of CBD. “Cannabidiol showed a low tendency to induce resistance in bacteria, even when we accelerated the potential development by increasing the concentrations of the antibiotic during treatment.

    “We believe cannabidiol kills bacteria by bursting their outer cell membranes, but we don’t know exactly how it does this yet and we need to do more research. The research team also found that chemical analogues, created by slightly altering the molecular structure of CBD, were also active against bacteria.

    “This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram negative infections since the 1960s and we can now consider designing new analogs of CBD with improved properties. Vince Ippolito, president and executive chairman of Botanix, said research shows vast potential for the development of effective treatments to tackle the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance.

    Upcoming launch

    “Kudos to Dr Blaskovich and his team for producing this important body of research, the published data clearly establishes the potential of synthetic cannabinoids as antimicrobials,” said Dr Ippolito. “Our company is now poised to commercialize viable antimicrobial therapies that we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now. ”

    Dr Blaskovich said the collaboration with Botanix accelerated research, with Botanix contributing formulation expertise which led to the discovery that the way cannabidiol is delivered makes a huge difference in its effectiveness in killing bacteria.

    The collaboration has enabled Botanix to advance a topical formulation of CBD in clinical trials for the decolonization of MRSA before surgery. “These Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and we hope this will pave the way for treatments for gonorrhea, meningitis and legionella.

    “Now that we have established that cannabidiol is effective against these Gram-negative bacteria, we are examining how it works, improving its activity and finding other similar molecules to pave the way for a new class of antibiotics.”


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