New Research from the Australian University of Queensland Clarifies: “Cannabis’ Antimicrobial Power”
CBD’s ability to potentiate antibiotics together with its own antimicrobial qualities have been reasonably well-established.
New research from the University of Queensland, Australia, has further clarified CBD’s value in antibiotic and antimicrobial treatment.
This has been an emergent research topic due to the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) Pneumococcus (Streptococcus Pneumoniae) and Clostridium (Clostridioides Difficile).
In the study, CBD was found to be effective at killing these types of bacteria as well as more common Gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), Meningitis (Neisseria meningitides), and Legionnaire’s (Legionella Pneumophila).
This is promising for the development of novel antibiotics that are effective against resistant bacteria.
The Antimicrobial Potential of CBD
Other research has speculated and clarified some of the ways in which CBD acts as an antibiotic. CBD has been known to potentiate the effects of antibiotics, enhancing their effectiveness at treating infections.
CBD has also been observed to enhance the strength of antibiotics against traditionally resistant bacteria.
This is highly promising as antibiotic-resistance has been rising worldwide with fears that conventional antibiotics will soon be fighting a losing battle against new waves of superbugs.
There has been a call for research into new, novel antibiotic treatment methods and drugs that can potentiate existing antibiotics, renewing their effectiveness against resistant strains.
CBD, as a naturally-derived chemical commonly extracted from the Hemp Plant, is both safe and plentiful.
Also, CBD has many other proven medical benefits in tackling numerous conditions and disorders ranging from anxiety disorder to migraines, depression, and sleep disorders. CBD has also been promising in treating chronic pain, and other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
The University of Queensland Study
The University of Queensland study found that CBD itself was capable of penetrating and killing bacteria. It was found to be particularly effective at destroying the STD Neisseria Gonorrhea, which is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in Australia.
But researchers also tested it against many other traditionally resistant bacterial strains.
Gonorrhea is notoriously hard to treat with antibiotics and the researchers suggest that CBD provides a valuable new treatment instrument to treat it and other resistant bacteria.
The research found that CBD’s mechanism for destroying bacteria was in the disruption of biofilms. Biofilms are evolved by resistant bacteria, making their external casing much harder for antibiotics to penetrate and kill. Modern superbugs may have increasingly thick and advanced biofilms, making them exceptionally hard to treat.
Dr. Blaskovich's team at the Centre for Superbug Solutions found that CBD could burst or weaken the biofilms of even highly resistant bacteria, potentiating the effects of antibiotics or negating the need for them in the first place.
The researchers also conducted a two-week patient treatment simulation to discover whether bacteria would adapt to CBD’s biofilm-bursting effects. They found that bacteria were generally unable to adapt to CBDs’ killing mechanism.
The researchers admitted that their research did not yield many conclusions for why CBD had this effect on bacterial membranes. But still, these findings are promising in the development of new types of powerful antibiotics that can tackle resistant bacterial strains.
Furthermore, the researchers also cited how CBD analogs could have the same effect. An analog is created by making small adjustments to the structure of a molecule. Analogs could be engineered to enhance the antimicrobial power of CBD, improving their properties.
The Rise of Superbugs
As humans have developed antibiotics, one of the medical triumphs of the 20th century, bacteria have been hard at work adapting.
Bacteria are intelligent when it comes to survival. There are arguments suggesting that bacteria have existed in some form for 3.5 billion years - dating right back to the origins of Earth itself.
Under certain conditions, bacteria can live for some 100 million years.
You don’t survive for that long without learning a thing or two. Some extremophile bacteria can survive extreme heat, extreme cold, extremely high or low pH, high pressure and will even survive in a vacuum for a period of time. All of these conditions would kill the vast majority of living matter.
So, it may come as no surprise that bacteria are becoming resistant to the weapons humans have invented to combat them.
Indeed, antibacterial resistance has been highlighted in research as one of the great challenges of our time. Novel antibiotics are in great demand and research has been urged to explore alternative routes to overcome antibiotic resistance.
Hence why CBD, as a compound with known antimicrobial properties, was a natural choice for further exploration.
The University of Queensland study consolidated some previous evidence of CBD’s antimicrobial properties, but crucially, it demonstrates how effective CBD really is versus resistant types of bacteria.
Why Does CBD Fight Bacteria
CBD is an extremely complex compound. It interacts with the Endocannabinoid System - the ECS - an impressive biological system present in the living tissues of all vertebrates and invertebrates at least, as well as many plants.
In humans, the ECS plays a complex role in many biological processes such as metabolism. We produce our own Cannabinoids - Endocannabinoids - that are essentially natural counterparts to the Cannabinoids formed in plants.
The CBD contained in plants such as the Hemp is slightly different, but it still interacts with our ECS via CB1 and CBD2 receptors.
CBD’s complex evolution in plants is likely an adaptive trait that aids survival. CBD is produced from trichomes, glands on the surface of a plant that secretes a gel-like liquid containing Cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, and many others.
Cannabinoids in plants possess powerful antimicrobial traits. They ward off bacteria, viruses, and insects, or other pests whilst also protecting the plant from the cold or UV. They also have a bitter taste which wards off herbivorous animals.
Trichomes don’t just exist in hemp or cannabis plants, they’re found across many species and serve a variety of complex purposes.
Cannabinoids provide a compelling toolbox of beneficial compounds. CBD is the key Cannabinoid, but there are many others too.
This toolbox of plant compounds provides a vast opportunity for future research into novel CBD-based antibiotic treatment methods.