New research has identified another promising medical application for cannabidiol (CBD): its use as an antibiotic. At last weekend’s gathering of microbiologists for the annual ASM Microbe conference in San Francisco, Australian researchers presented a study that found CBD kills anti-biotic resistant bacteria. Specifically, the study found that CBD is active against gram-positive bacteria, such as the kinds that cause dangerous staph and strep infections. The findings are very significant, especially as the world faces a looming crisis of antibiotic resistance.
CBD Is a Potent New Antibiotic
In addition to becoming a phenomenon in the wellness and beauty market, cannabidiol is also an ongoing sensation among health professionals and medical researchers. In fact, CBD, the non-psychoactive compound produced by cannabis and hemp plants, is the only component of marijuana to receive FDA approval. Besides its proven efficacy for treating epilepsy, researchers are also studying CBD as a treatment for an array of other medical conditions, from pain and anxiety to inflammation and neurodegenerative ailments.
But investigations into the use of CBD as an anti-biotic are something new. There is some data out there to suggest that CBD kills bacteria. But so far, its anti-biotic capabilities haven’t been studied in any rigorous way. Indeed, the work of Dr. Mark Blaskovich at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Superbug Solutions is one of the first to take a closer look at CBD’s ability to fight infection.
In collaboration with Botanix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a drug discovery company, Dr. Blaskovich and his team investigated topical uses of synthetic cannabidiol for treating a range of skin conditions. What they found was that CBD performed exceptionally well at killing a wide range of gram-positive bacteria. And that includes so-called “Super Bugs,” bacteria that have become resistant to other antibiotics, like Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Even more remarkably, CBD did a better job killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria than common pharmaceutical antibiotics. That’s because, unlike those drugs, CBD did not lose its effectiveness over time. Bacteria, in other words, were not able to develop a resistance to CBD.
Can CBD Solve the Super-Bug Problem?
“Given cannabidiol’s documented anti-inflammatory effects, existing safety data in humans, and potential for varied delivery routes, it is a promising new antibiotic worth further investigation,” said Dr. Blaskovich. Blaskovich also said that CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects, which makes it so effective against epilepsy and pain, combined with its inherent antimicrobial activity, make it particularly attractive as a novel treatment for infections.
In the presentation of their research at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in San Francisco, Blaskovich and his team emphasized how CBD did not lose its effectiveness against gram-positive bacteria, even after extended exposure. During the investigation, researchers also observed that CBD was effective at disrupting biofilms, a form of bacterial growth that makes infections particularly difficult to treat.
So while other commonly prescribed antibiotics lost effectiveness as bacteria became resistant to them, CBD remained a powerful bacteria killer. And that’s crucial, especially as health professionals globally are beginning to face a crisis of antibiotic resistance. Resistant bacteria are emerging rapidly worldwide, endangering the efficacy of antibiotics. Many decades after antibiotics were first introduced, bacterial infections are once again a major threat.
It’s a crisis that has emerged due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotic medications, as well as a lack of any new drug development by pharmaceutical companies. Developing antibiotics to save millions of lives just isn’t profitable for pharmaceutical companies, so none are actively working to develop new ones. As a result, antibiotic resistance presents an urgent, serious and concerning threat for health care systems, patients and their families, worldwide.
Cannabidiol, new research suggests, could be the answer to the super-bug problem pharmaceutical companies aren’t willing to solve.