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Cannabidiol – the non-psychoactive cannabis compound better known as CBD – is a potent blocker of SARS-CoV-2 replication in human cells, shows new research. Not only that, but a real-world study of patients taking prescribed CBD found a “significant” negative relationship between CBD consumption and COVID-19 infection.
As described in a paper published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal The progress of science by a team of 33 researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Louisville, a study of 1,212 U.S. patients taking prescribed CBD found that individuals taking 100 milligrams-per-milliliter oral doses of CBD returned positive COVID-19 tests at much lower rates than control groups with similar medical backgrounds who did not take CBD .
According to the study, all patients were people who had seizure-related conditions that CBD is often prescribed to treat. Of this group, 6.2 percent returned positive COVID-19 tests or a diagnosis, compared with 8.9 percent in the control group. Among a small subset of patients likely to take CBD on the date of their first COVID-19 test, the effect was even more pronounced: Only 4.9 percent of people taking CBD were infected with COVID-19, compared with 9 percent in the control group.
“Our results suggest that CBD and its metabolite 7-OH-CBD may block SARS-CoV-2 infection at early and even later stages of infection,” the study said.
In addition to looking at real-world data, the researchers performed laboratory tests. Main author Dr. Marsha Rosner, Professor of Ben May’s Department of Cancer Research at the University of Chicago, and her team treated human lung cells for two hours with CBD before infecting them with SARS-CoV-2, leaving them for 48 hours while monitoring them for the presence of the COVID peak protein. They found that CBD inhibits the replication of genes necessary for the growth and spread of the virus throughout the body. They performed the same tests on three COVID-19 variants and found the same result.
“As a bottom line, this says CBD has the potential to prevent infections, such as breakthrough infections, which may be one of the most useful applications,” Rosner told Motherboard.
The researchers sought to identify the mechanism by which CBD inhibited infection; while they found a negligible effect at the time virus enters the cells, they found that CBD was “very effective” in preventing protein expression in cells two and six hours after infection and “partially effective” in doing so for 15 hours. after infection. They also found that CBD’s metabolite, 7-OH-CBD – the compound that is created in the body when CBD is processed in the liver and intestines – has a similar antiviral effect and was non-toxic to cells.
The study provides strong evidence that CBD can process and slow the transmission of COVID-19. It only comes one week after one initial revelation from Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Sciences University that cannabis precursors (the acids that turn into CBD and THC upon combustion) can stop the infection of cells with SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory tests.
The authors of this study were careful to note that cannabis-derived products, although a potentially important public health intervention, are not a substitute for vaccination campaigns. But in the big fight to end the pandemic, they may end up being a much-needed supplement.
“Despite the recent availability of vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 is still spreading rapidly, highlighting the need for alternative therapies, especially for populations with limited propensity or access to vaccines,” University of Chicago researchers write in their study.
“What we do not want … is for people to just run out and think, ‘I can take CBD, and then I do not need to be vaccinated, or I do not need to be masked,'” Rosner said. “That’s what we really do not want to see.”
There appears to be a stream of scientific news about the promise of cannabis to prevent or treat COVID-19. Last week, another group of researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, identified CBD as a primer for a process called apoptosis or natural cell death – in the case of COVID-19, their research suggests that CBD stimulates the death of infected cells, stops viral spread in its tracks and slows transmission to others.
At the same time, studies are contributing to a growing body of research identifying cannabis as a tool in the global COVID-19 response arsenal. Rosner and her team first laid the groundwork for this work in March 2021, when they identified cannabidiol as a potential treatment for COVID-19 for its ability to inhibit viral replication in lung cells in a laboratory. As described in a pre-printthe team found that in amounts similar to those prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy, CBD inhibits the replication of genes necessary for viruses to spread throughout the body.
Rosner and her team warn against mixing their findings with the proposal to use recreational cannabis as a treatment for COVID-19: THC can inhibit CBD’s antiviral effects, the authors note, and smoking is bad for your lungs. Without clinical trials, they also cannot recommend that people go out and buy CBD at a pharmacy.
“We strongly warn against the temptation to take CBD in currently available formulations, including edible substances, inhalants or topicals as a preventative or curative therapy at present,” the authors write. “Especially without knowledge of a strictly randomized clinical trial with this natural product.”
Rosner notes that it is impossible to know which CBD dosage and formula will be most effective in treating COVID-19 infection until her research moves into clinical trials in humans. After all, Rosner said, “we can only do so much in mice; we really need to do this in humans.”
“We think it has a potential, both to be preventative – so you can imagine, for example, that I have to travel, and CBD is something that, if we can make the right product available, it should be widely available, it should be something people could expect to need, “she said.” Or you go and get tested and start taking it right away. The hope is that it would prevent more serious illness, but we do not know yet. And we would need a clinical trial. ”