A scientific breakthrough could mean antibiotic-resistant infections such as gonorrhea are treated by synthetic cannabidiol.
Antibiotic-resistant infections like gonorrhea could soon be treated by cannabis, as breakthrough research suggests the drug could be a potentially powerful tool in combating superbugs.
Synthetic cannabidiol, or CBD, has for the first time shown it is capable of killing the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea, meningitis and legionnaires disease, according to the University of Queensland.
There is no single, reliable antibiotic available to treat gonorrhea – the second most common sexually transmitted infection in Thailand and also Australia – because the bacteria is extremely capable of developing resistance, but CBD oil could be its match.
The research, under a joint partnership with Botanix Pharmaceuticals, could lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years. But scientists say there’s a lot more research that needs to be done before any treatment is rolled out.
UQ Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich said CBD, which is the main non-psychoactive component of the drug, could penetrate and kill “a wide range of bacteria”.
“This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria,” he said.
“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 golden staph, an antibiotic-resistant pathogen.
Dr Blaskovich’s team used 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’,” he said.
“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.”
Botanix president Vince Ippolito said the research showed vast potential for the development of effective treatments to fight the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance.
“This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now,” he said.