Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton (Canada) have identified an antibacterial compound produced by cannabis plants that can be used in the development of new drugs.
The results of the study were published in the American Chemical Society Infectious Diseases.
Effective against resilient bacteria
The interdisciplinary team found that the cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG) is not only antibacterial but is also effective in mice against a resilient family of bacteria called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known by the acronym MRSA).
“In this study, we investigated 18 cannabinoids available on the market and all showed antibiotic activity, some much more than others,” said Eric Brown, professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster.
“We focused on a non-psychoactive cannabinoid called CBG, as it had the most promising activity. We synthesized this cannabinoid in large quantities, which gave us enough compost to deepen the research.”
The CBG eliminated antibiotic-resistant cells
The researchers found that CBG had antibacterial activity against drug-resistant MRSA microorganisms.
It prevented these bacteria from forming biofilms (communities of microorganisms that bind to each other and surfaces); additionally, it destroyed biofilms and antibiotic-resistant cells. CBG has achieved this by targeting the bacterium’s cell membrane.
In addition, these laboratory findings were reinforced when MRSA infected mice received CBG. “CBG has proven to be wonderful in combating pathogenic bacteria,” said Brown. “The results suggest a real therapeutic potential for cannabinoids as antibiotics.”
The toxicity problem
However, an observation made by the research team is about the toxicity of CBG in host cells, which makes the study’s findings an important advantage, but not an end product yet, Brown said.
“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.”
Brown’s lab has studied the antibiotic potential of cannabis in the past two years since it’s legalization in Canada.
“There has been some stigma of investing in this kind of research, but there’s increasing anecdotal evidence of the medicinal use of cannabis. The stigma seems to be waning.”