Scientists Believe CBD Can Kill Bacteria That Causes Gonorrhea and Meningitis
The antibacterial properties of cannabis could be used to create a new class of antibiotics that can kill treatment-resistant “superbugs.”
Published on January 19, 2021

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CBD can kill the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea, meningitis, and legionnaires disease, according to new research conducted by the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. 

The UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience recently paired up with Australian medical cannabis firm Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited to study how synthetic cannabinoids can combat treatment-resistant bacteria. The research team has discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) can kill several different strains of bacteria, which could pave the way for the first new class of antibiotics to be developed in over 60 years.

"This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria,” said head researcher and UQ Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich in a statement. “These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defense that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate." Gram-negative bacteria can cause gonorrhea, meningitis, legionnaires disease, and other infections that are difficult to treat with traditional antibiotics.

"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,” Blaskovich explained. "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.”

Blaskovich and his team also discovered that CBD can also kill Gram-positive bacteria, including MRSA, a deadly antibiotic-resistant form of staph increasingly found in healthcare facilities. The researchers believe that cannabinoids can help kill these bacteria by breaking down biofilms - slimy layers of bacterial buildup that help MRSA and other “superbugs” fight off traditional antibiotics.

Botanix has synthesized several new CBD analogs and is conducting clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of these new compounds. "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,” said Vince Ippolito, President and Executive Chairman of Botanix, in a statement.

"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," Ippolito added.

These new studies will add to a growing body of research exploring the antibiotic potential of cannabis. A study from last year found that CBG, another non-psychoactive cannabinoid, can kill MRSA bacteria and help break down treatment-resistant biofilms. Dental researchers have also discovered that CBD, CBG, and related cannabinoids can fight cavities by killing the bacterial biofilms that form on teeth and gums. And in Israel, researchers are working to create synthetic cannabinoid derivatives that could help fight off gastrointestinal infections.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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