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article imageResearchers uncover hidden antibiotic potential of cannabis

By Karen Graham     Feb 28, 2020 in Science
Hamilton - A cannabis compound has been shown to kill some of the most worrisome antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a study by Canadian researchers at McMaster University.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that antibiotic resistance is "one of the biggest threats to global health," and rightly so.
Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, making it difficult to rely on antibiotics that once proved to be beneficial in treating a number of infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and foodborne diseases.
A research team at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario - while investigating the effectiveness of Cannabis sativa cannabinoids found that one compound, called cannabigerol (CBG) is not only antibacterial but also effective in mice against a resilient family of bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The findings were published in the journal American Chemical Society Infectious Diseases on February 4, 2020.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act on receptors found throughout the human body, and there are more than 100 found in Cannabis sativa. It is well known that some of the compounds may be antibacterial, however, their potential to address antibiotic resistance has not been studied as much.
"In this study, we investigated 18 commercially available cannabinoids and they all showed antibiotic activity, some much more than others," said study lead Eric Brown, professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster, reports Science Daily.
"The one we focused on was a non-psychoactive cannabinoid called CBG, as it had the most promising activity. We synthesized that cannabinoid in mass quantity which gave us sufficient compound to go deep into the research."
CBG prevents bacteria from forming biofilms
Bacteria have the ability to form a biofilm in response to various different factors. The biofilm bacteria can share nutrients and are protected from harmful factors in the environment, such as desiccation, antibiotics, and a host body's immune system.
A bacterial cell that switches to the biofilm mode of growth undergoes a phenotypic shift in behavior in which large suites of genes are differentially regulated. Dental plaque is a good example of a bacterial biofilm.
Professor Eric Brown (left); research associate Maya Farha (centre)  and postdoctoral fellow Omar El...
Professor Eric Brown (left); research associate Maya Farha (centre), and postdoctoral fellow Omar El-Halfawy, are authors of the study.
© McMaster University / News
Using mice infected with MRSA, the researchers were able to prove CBG's ability to prevent the bacteria from forming biofilms and eradicate preformed biofilms and stationary phase cells persistent to antibiotics. CBG accomplished this by targeting the cytoplasmic membrane of Gram-positive bacteria, in this case.
"CBG proved to be marvelous at tackling pathogenic bacteria," Brown said. "The findings suggest a real therapeutic potential for cannabinoids as antibiotics."
"It opens a therapeutic window, but a narrow one, to develop this into a drug," he said. "The next steps are to try to make the compound better in that it is more specific to the bacteria and has a lower chance of toxicity."
The study also found that cannabinoids are effective against "{Gram-negative organisms whose outer membrane is permeabilized, where cannabigerol acts on the inner membrane. Finally, we demonstrate that cannabinoids work in combination with polymyxin B against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens, revealing the broad-spectrum therapeutic potential for cannabinoids."
The study was funded by McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research, Faculty of Health Sciences and Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.
More about Cannabis, cannabigerol, MRSA, prevent biofilms, Infectious diseases
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