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CBD shown to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria


Matt Woodley


21/01/2021 5:49:36 PM

Researchers have found synthetic cannabidiol can kill bacteria responsible for gonorrhoea, meningitis and Legionnaires’ disease.

Petrie dish with bacteria.
CBD can kill a wide range of bacteria, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea.

The study, conducted by the University of Queensland (UQ) and Botanix Pharmaceuticals (which also funded the research), could lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years.
 
According to Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich, who works at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, cannabidiol (CBD) – the main non-psychoactive component of cannabis – can penetrate and kill a wide range of bacteria including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea.
 
CBD is able to do this because it is particularly good at breaking down biofilms – the slimy build-up of bacteria, such as dental plaque on the surface of teeth – which help bacteria survive antibiotic treatments.
 
‘This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria,’ Dr Blaskovich said. ‘These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defence that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate.
 
‘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.’
 
Gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually-transmitted infection in Australia and there is currently no single reliable antibiotic to treat it because the bacteria is particularly good at developing resistance.
 
The study also showed that CBD is 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), also known as ‘golden staph’.

To do this, Dr Blaskovich’s team at the Centre for Superbug Solutions mimicked a two-week patient treatment in laboratory models to see how fast the bacteria mutated, in an effort 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”,’ Dr Blaskovich 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.’
 
The research team also discovered that chemical analogs – created by slightly changing CBD’s molecular structure – were also active against the bacteria.
 
‘This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram-negative infections discovered and approved since the 1960s,’ Dr Blaskovich said. ‘We can now consider designing new analogs of CBD within improved properties.’
 
A topical CBD formulation has already progressed into clinical trials for decolonisation of MRSA before surgery. Those Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year, and if successful may help generate now treatments for gonorrhoea, meningitis and Legionnaires’ disease.
 
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