Cannabis oil kills bacteria better than established antibiotics… providing a possible new weapon in the war on superbugs, according to new research.
It offers hope of curing killer infections – including MRSA and pneumonia, say scientists.
Known as CBD (cannabidiol), it is derived from marijuana and hemp plants – and has no effect on the mind.
It can be found in a range of products from CBD coffee and frozen yogurt to balms, drops and even cosmetics.
Now, scientists have found it kills germs that are responsible for a host of serious illnesses.
The breakthrough was made by chance as Dr Mark Blaskovich’s team was investigating topical uses of CBD creams for various skin disorders.
His lab found it was remarkably effective at killing a wide range of bugs, including those that have become resistant to other antibiotics.
What is more it did not lose effectiveness after extended treatment, he told an American Society for Microbiology meeting in San Francisco.
Dr Blaskovich, of The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Superbug Solutions in Australia, said: “Given cannabidiol’s documented anti-inflammatory effects, existing safety data in humans, and potential for varied delivery routes, it is a promising new antibiotic worth further investigation.
“The combination of inherent antimicrobial activity and potential to reduce damage caused by the inflammatory response to infections is particularly attractive.”
Importantly, the drug retained its activity against bacteria that have become highly resistant to other common antibiotics.
In experiments, CBD was just as potent as the common medications vancomycin or daptomycin which are becoming increasingly ineffective.
Under extended exposure conditions that lead to resistance against vancomycin or daptomycin, it did not lose effectiveness.
It also successfully disrupted biofilms, a physical form of bacteria growth that leads to difficult-to-treat infections.
While there is limited data to suggest CBD can kill bacteria, the drug has never been thoroughly investigated for its potential as an antibiotic, said Dr Blaskovich.
The study co-funded by Australian drug company Botanix Pharmaceuticals Ltd comes in the wake of a UN warning that antibiotic resistant bacteria may be claiming 50 million lives a year by 2050.
CBD has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of a form of epilepsy.
It is also being investigated as a possible therapy for a number of other conditions including anxiety, pain and inflammation.
CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant by steam distillation. It is usually consumed orally, and has a very distinct taste.
It is available to buy in the UK and is not illegal as long as products contain less than 0.05% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
This is the psychoactive component in marijuana that makes users feel “high”. There have been high profile calls for higher concentration oil to be made legal.
The family of epilepsy sufferer Billy Caldwell, 12, were granted an exemption by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to take concentrated CBD cannabis oil after insisting it was a lifeline.
And Alfie Dingley’s parents say the six-year-old should be allowed the same treatment after describing its impact on his seizures as “nothing short of a miracle”.
On November 1, 2018, medical cannabis became available to patients in the UK on NHS prescription.