What’s Cannabis’ Potential As An Antibiotic?

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Found in cannabis, an extraordinary bioactive compound has proven effective in wiping out one of the most common drug-resistant bacteria in a study on mice, raising great hope for combating even the most resistant of superbugs.

More than ever, the conventional antibiotics of today are having a problem trying to keep up with rapidly changing and harmful bacteria. And, while antibiotics have saved countless lives, our efforts to develop new classes of antibiotics knows no end. Simply put the more resistance, the higher the dose of medication — which, in most cases is potentially toxic and may be the reason many have been led to seek out other solutions. 

Free of total despair, we are thankful for one treatment that could be the kind of saving grace we all need.

First Glance

  • Therapeutic properties found in cannabis, particularly the cannabinoids, have proven folkloric records scientifically true.
  • There are a number or factors included in increased antibiotic resistance, making superbugs far more difficult to kill.
  • Said to infect the body by way of open wounds, MRSA significantly affects our ability to heal and has become extremely difficult to treat.
  • Cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, and THC were all found to be effective in treating several strains of MRSA including the wrath of hospitals in EMRSA.

Related story: New study finds CBD effective in treating bacterial diseases

Pastime Antibiotics

The prohibition of cannabis and poor knowledge of its medicinal use in place of antibiotics has limited scientific investigation. Interestingly, for centuries, those living in ancient times have long emphasized the plant’s appeal as not only an antibacterial, but also an antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and analgesic. 

The advanced medical system of Ancient Egypt contains ample evidence of the medicinal power of cannabis, with papyri showing many accounts of its antiseptic use. The same is also found in various ancient civilizations all over the world including African, European and South American cultures, where the indispensable internal and external applications of cannabis are well known. Despite its medical usefulness, attitudes towards cannabis started to shift globally.

Antibiotic Resistance A Global Threat

Clearly too much of a good thing, the antibiotic resistance crisis is nothing new. Since the first mass production, the decreased effectiveness of substances such as penicillin has caused bacteria to survive and mutate, despite repeated exposure to the medication. 

Antibiotics were created to assist the immune system and kill harmful bacteria that cause infection in humans. This is done by killing bacteria, which then prevents the synthesis of bacterial cell walls–without which bacteria cannot survive. While the antibiotics will kill most of the bacteria, the small fraction of organisms left behind from treatment adapt and become extremely resistant, thus, a more potent antibiotic treatment is required. 

Time and time again, superbugs build resistance by learning how to hurdle the effects of conventional antibiotics.

Here’s a list of reasons that have served to exacerbate this situation:

  • Increased availability and use since the 1950’s.
  • Environmental pollution.
  • Repeated and improper uses of the overly cautious.
  • A natural resistance amongst specific types of bacteria.
  • Genetic mutation.
  • Uncontrolled sale of antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic usage in livestock.

The antibiotic resistance crisis is truly a vicious merry-go-round and it’s only getting worse. Mechanisms like the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a good example of this, and it’s scaring the bejesus out of everyone. 

What is the Superbug MRSA?

MRSA is a superbug that infects through an opened wound. This is because it makes extra amounts of penicillin-binding proteins (the essential components of bacterial cell walls) that give superbugs the power to resist antibiotics. 

There are many people who carry S. aureus on their skin, but things become problematic when resistant bacteria like MRSA enters the bloodstream through open wounds. In the worst cases, the MRSA superbug will spread all through the body, resulting in a life-threatening infection.

Even among healthy populations, there have been outbreaks of EMRSA (Epidemic Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus). The superbug has marauded many hospitals and other medical facilities and has easily spread on the skin of patients in close proximity to one another. It’s bittersweet for those who survive the infection, as they could be at risk for radical amputation or even years of rehabilitation.

Cannabis, The Redeemer

Since the discovery of the endocannabinoids system remained unknown before the late 90’s, no comprehensive study ever existed that was related to cannabinoids and antibacterial activity, so it explains our lack of knowledge. 

But, a groundbreaking study conducted by scientists Giovanni Appendino, Simon Gibbons, and coworkers in 2008 has significantly developed and increased our knowledge of disease-fighting and antibacterial cannabinoids. The study examined the activity of cannabis and its derivatives:

In their research, they found all five cannabinoids were not only unaffected by their tricks used to evade conventional antibiotics, but they also killed them dead in their tracks. Appendino and Gibbons figured out that these cannabinoids were extremely effective at killing bacteria due to their ability to target vital processes in the bacteria. Additionally, the five cannabinoids were found to be more powerful than commonly used Vancomycin — an antibiotic often used as a last resort when all else fails.

Room To Grow For Cannabis Research

Certainly, the devastating irony is, the result of “superbugs” is largely due to the antibiotics that were designed to treat them in the first place. And, although research on the cannabis plant may be new and far from complete, its ingredients seemingly bypass the mechanisms that other antibiotics use.

Given the gravity of the situation and the intriguing results of the aforementioned study, more than anything, we’re being shown what cannabis has done and what it can do in the near future. And as we expand our research, we may be able to prescribe cannabis as a form of antibiotic treatment that could improve and possibly even save human lives someday. 

I mean just imagine, cannabis antibiotics — how cool would that be?