A team of Canadian researchers has found that a few strains found in cannabis, also known as marijuana, can help prevent or cure the coronavirus infection. The team of researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, partnered with Pathway Rx, a cannabis therapy research company, and Swysh Inc, a cannabinoid-based research company, to conduct the research.
Since its outbreak in Wuhan in China in December last year, the coronavirus has infected over five million people globally and killed nearly 330,000.
CBD Reduces the Cell Attachments for Coronavirus
The study titled "In Search of Preventive Strategies: Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Issues", awaiting a peer review, has been published in peer Journal Preprints.
According to the Daily Mail, the team studied 400 cannabis strains out of which around 12 showed positive results against the fatal virus. The team found that extracts of cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive component of pot, helped in lowering the number of cell receptors available for the coronavirus to attach to by more than 70 per cent, the publication reported.
The team deployed artificial 3D models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues for the study. High CBD Cannabis sativa extracts were found to modulate Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) 2 gene expression and its protein levels. The results indicated that hemp extracts high in CBD may help block proteins – the ACE-2 receptors, which have been found as the "entry point" for coronavirus into host cells in the body, found the study.
"A number of them have reduced the number of [virus] receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower. If they can reduce the number of receptors, there's much less chance of getting infected," AJC quoted Igor Kovalchuk, CEO of Pathway Rx and holder of a Health Canada License for Cannabis Research as saying.
"Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been generally accepted by the scientific community as a receptor required for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells. Our initial findings warrant further investigation but it's possible that medical cannabis products could become a safe adjunct therapy for the treatment of COVID-19."
Researchers Warn Against Using Cannabis For COVID-19
Cautioning people against the purchase and consumption of cannabis products to prevent against coronavirus, the researchers said that the Cannabis and CBD products available in the market are not designed to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection.
The team also explored other receptors such as TMPRSS2, which allow the virus to invade cells more easily and multiply quickly. "Imagine a cell being a large building. Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70 percent, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it," Kovalchuk told CTV News.
The Herald quoted Kovalchuk as saying "Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered. Our research team is actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials. If trials proves to be successful, the CBD strains may be used as mouth wash, gargle, inhalants or gel caps. It would be cheaper for people and have a lot less side-effects."