One of the scariest developments in recent years is the evolution of antibiotic superbugs – bacteria that are resistant to current antibiotic treatments. The search for new antibiotics is one of the most important areas of scientific study today, and new research shows that CBD may play a vital role.
The primary reason for the declining efficacy of antibiotics isn’t that hard to explain. The over-use of antibiotics has spurred the development of stronger bacteria that aren’t all that bothered by the antibiotics of yesteryear.
According to the CDC’s numbers on Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year. And those numbers are expected to rise exponentially.
Take a disease like gonorrhea, for example. Not only is it one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, but it is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacteria that is particularly good at developing resistance. In fact, there is no longer a single reliable treatment for the infection.
Neisseria gonorrhea is also a good example of Gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are particularly difficult to treat since they have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defense that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate.
But, according to new research resulting from a collaboration between The University of Queensland’s Centre for Superbug Solutions and Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited, CBD seems to be able to penetrate that additional layer of protection. And according to Dr. Mark Blaskovich, this is the first study that has demonstrated CBD’s ability to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria.
According to this latest study, CBD was effective against a wide range of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA. Also, the bacteria found it very difficult to develop resistance to CBD’s effects.
The Centre for Superbug Solutions has a rather obvious mandate (its name rather gives it away). This includes helping to stop the inappropriate use of antibiotics as well as rediscovering and optimizing antibiotics that were discovered in the past but not developed into drugs.
But they are also actively searching for molecules with antimicrobial properties for the development of new antibiotics. This is where their research on CBD comes in.
And, so far, the research has been incredibly rewarding.
This most recent study also showed that CBD was particularly effective against a much larger number of Gram-positive bacteria than was previously known. This includes pathogens like the dreaded MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
But that’s not all.
As part of the study, Blaskovich and his team mimicked a two-week patient treatment in laboratory models, measuring the speed at which the bacteria mutated in order to survive CBD’s deadly effects. What they found is very good news for the future of antibiotic treatment:
“Cannabidiol showed a low tendency to cause resistance in bacteria even when we sped up potential development by increasing concentrations of the antibiotic during ‘treatment’.”
So there’s a good chance that a CBD-based antibiotic treatment could be effective for longer than many of the current antibiotics available.
So how does it work? So far, researchers can only hypothesize:
“We think that cannabidiol kills bacteria by bursting their outer cell membranes, but we don’t know yet exactly how it does that, and need to do further research.”
But CBD wasn’t the only molecule they studied. They also looked at chemical analogs of CBD – created by slightly changing CBD’s molecular structure— and discovered that these analogs were also active against the bacteria. According to Blaskovich:
“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.”
Vince Ippolito, the President and Executive Chairman of Botanix, said the research showed vast potential for the development of effective treatments to fight the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance.
“Our Company is now primed to commercialize viable antimicrobial treatments which we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now.”
So far, Botanix has initiated a clinical trial for a topical CBD formulation intended to help decolonize MRSA before surgery.
“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.”
Those Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and Botanix is hopeful that the results will pave the way for treatments for gonorrhea, meningitis, and legionnaires disease.
And that could be just the beginning.