Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, have zeroed in on a chemical compound produced by cannabis plants that could unlock the antibiotic potential of cannabinoids.
In the paper published this week in the American Chemical Society’s Infectious Diseases, the McMaster team found that the compound, dubbed cannabigerol (CBG), demonstrates both strong antibacterial and antibiotic properties, as it acts as a deterrent to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria.
The study looked at 18 different cannabinoids, all of which have shown antibiotic activity.
“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,” professor Eric Brown, who heads the team, said.
CBG outperformed the other cannabinoids, specifically acting as an antibiotic in tests conducted on MRSA-infected mice. The cannabinoid achieved this by “targeting the cell membrane of the bacteria,” the paper explained.
“CBG proved to be marvellous at tackling pathogenic bacteria. The findings suggest real therapeutic potential for cannabinoids as antibiotics,” Brown said, but he added that the research only opens a “narrow therapeutic window” to develop a new drug.
“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,” he explained.
Brown also shared that the team owes this discovery in part to the fact that Canada had legalized marijuana in 2018.
“This research became top of mind for us, in part, because we are 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,” according to Brown.
Over in the U.S., scientists have repeatedly pointed out that marijuana’s status as a federally illegal substance has significantly hindered research efforts.
The only authorized supplier of marijuana for research purposes in the U.S. is the University of Mississippi.
The product provided by this federally-approved supplier has been described as “sub-par” and “not suited for clinical trials” by researchers, prompting a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).