CBD As An Antibiotic? New Study Suggests Cannabidiol Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens

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Will CBD one day slay the superbug menace? 

Each year, approximately 35,000 people die from superbugs, with an additional 3 million people in the U.S. falling ill from these strains of bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other pathogens that are resistant to medications. 

According to a CNN report, superbugs kill someone in the U.S. every 15 minutes. That report dates back to 2019. 

Although these days, we’re more concerned with the seemingly more pressing health concern that is the coronavirus pandemic, clearly the threat from superbugs shouldn’t be swept under the rug. 

A new study published in Communications Biology and summarized in Drug Target Review suggests that CBD has the potential to act as a new class of antibiotics. 

Antibiotics haven’t changed at all in the last 60-plus years. A new class is needed to combat potentially-lethal superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. 

WebMD.com provides statistics from the Centers for Disease Control website that reveals that MRSA was responsible for nearly 100,000 life-threatening infections and 18,650 deaths in 2005. That’s more deaths than from the HIV virus. 

Can taking pure CBD oil be an effective preventative remedy for potentially-deadly infections? Or, if you already have an infection, can CBD kill the microorganism? 

The short answer is maybe. What we do know is the cannabidiol (CBD), one of over 100 compounds isolated from the cannabis sativa plant, indirectly activates the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a superhighway network of receptors that when properly activated, encourage homeostasis (balance) in the body’s many systems. 

CBD’s Antimicrobial Properties

Let’s start with what we know about CBD’s therapeutic potential according to previous research studies. 

According to Nature.com, CBD has been shown to reduce: 

  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting 
  • Chronic pain and spasms due to multiple sclerosis or paraplegia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Tourette syndrome

In addition, CBD has also been shown to boost appetite for HIV/AIDS patients, and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. 

But killing superbugs? Can CBD really slay some of the most virulent pathogens? 

The new study, from Australia, shows for the first time that CBD kills the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea, meningitis, legionnaires disease, and, yes, MRSA. 

These types of infections are caused by microorganisms that are known as gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria, according to the CDC, cause infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis in healthcare settings. Furthermore, “these bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to be resistant and can pass along genetic materials that allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well,” says the CDC. 

One of the researchers involved in the study explains why these bacteria have become so resistant to traditional antibiotics: “[They] have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defense that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate.”

An impressive feature about CBD gleaned from the study is that it’s widely effective against a much larger number of Gram-positive bacteria than previously known, including MRSA. 

Although it’s not entirely clear how CBD kills gram-resistant bacteria, the researchers believe it may have something to do with how CBD bursts the outer cell membranes of the bacteria. 

What’s Next For CBD As A Potential Antibiotic?

It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions from this preliminary study. But the results are promising. To further the study, the next step will be developing a topical CBD for clinical trials. The efficacy of CBD’s potential to decolonize (weaken) MRSA, before surgery, will be determined. 

The researchers will further examine CBD’s mode of action and hopefully find out how to make it even more effective against deadly pathogens. Ultimately, researchers hope that a new class of superbug-killing antibiotics will be developed from the humble, amazingly diverse wild hemp plant, from which CBD is derived.

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