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A New Study Finds that CBD Can Kill Certain Bacteria. Does This Make it an Antibiotic?

Researchers say CBD has the potential to be the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years.

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Synthetic CBD can kill bacteria responsible for a wide variety of diseases, including the Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea, according to a new study out of Australia.

Researchers at the University of Queensland believe that their findings involving CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, could lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in the last 60 years. The researchers used synthetic CBD, which many see as the future of the cannabis industry.

Mark Blaskovich, an associate professor at the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said in a news release that CBD seems especially effective against Gram-negative bacteria that current antibiotics have a difficult time killing. But CBD proved effective, breaking through the bacteria’s extra outer cell membrane.

“This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram-negative infections discovered and approved since the 1960s, and we can now consider designing new analogs of CBD within improved properties,” Blaskovich said.

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How CBD kills bacteria 

CBD proved highly effective against a larger number of Gram-positive bacteria than known from previous research, including the antibiotic-resistant pathogen MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), also known as “golden staph.”

CBD demonstrated the ability to break down biofilms, which is the slimy buildup of bacteria (such as dental plaque). These biofilms help MRSA survive against antibiotics.

The researchers believe that CBD proves so effective because it can burst the outer cell membranes of bacteria, but they are not sure how it accomplishes this. They plan further research.

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What this means for the use of synthetic CBD

The university did the research in a partnership with Botanix Pharmaceuticals, which provided researchers with synthetic CBD. Vince Ippolito, President and Executive Chairman of Botanix, said in the release that the research showed the potential for using synthetic CBD to create effective treatments “to fight the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance.”

Botanix is currently moving forward with plans for clinical trials using a topical CBD formulation to decolonize MRSA before surgery. Ippolito said the hope is that the trial will pave the way for CBD as a treatment for gonorrhea, meningitis, and legionnaires disease.

“Now we have established that cannabidiol is effective against these Gram-negative bacteria, we are looking at its mode of action, improving its activity and finding other similar molecules to open up the way for a new class of antibiotics,” he said.

Many people in the cannabis industry feel synthetic cannabis could advance research into the potential to treat diseases with cannabinoids, but they also call for better regulation of the synthetic cannabis market.

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