Antibiotic resistance is on the rise and infections are becoming more difficult to manage. Most antibiotic families like penicillins and tetracyclines have been around long enough that bacteria have adapted ways to survive these drugs. That means they are no longer as easily killed by these traditional medicines. Even more alarming is the rise of bacteria that are resistant to multiple types of antibiotics.
How Did Antibiotics Develop?
The development of innovative cures or remedies against opportunistic infections halted in the last couple of decades. This gave bacteria time to develop many different mechanisms or ways to resist available medicines. With an increase in difficult to manage infections, it is important for new therapies to be developed that are effective in killing these harmful microorganisms. This is especially important for people who are vulnerable to infections, like:
- Children, especially those under two years old
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic illnesses or conditions
- People who have compromised immune systems
Can New Antibiotics Still Be Discovered?
Finding new antibiotic sources or ways to modify drug-resistance in infection-causing bacteria are current areas of ongoing research. Before medicines, plants were believed to have medicinal properties that make them effective in treating infectious conditions. Scientists are starting to recognize that there may be truth to much of the old, traditional ways of treating people before medicine became what it is today.
Plants provide a possible untapped source of innovative ways to treat and manage infections and conditions, and studies are being performed to validate these traditional, alternative remedies in scientific settings.
Could CBD Be a Potential Antibiotic for People?
Cannabinoids have been shown to have possible antibiotic properties since at least the 1950s. This was when some of the first rigorous studies on marijuana plants were being performed. More recent studies have shown that even cannabinoids like CBD, the main non-psychoactive chemical compound extracted from cannabis and hemp plants, have antibacterial potential.
The antibiotic property of these compounds is one of many properties being investigated in CBD for the potential, effective treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions. As of now, the FDA has only approved CBD’s use as a treatment in a rare form of epilepsy in children.
Simply having antibiotic properties does not automatically make CBD or any other newly discovered product an effective antibiotic. What it does is highlight the potential of these compounds as a way to address the urgent need of creating treatments for harmful, pathogenic and multidrug-resistant bacteria.
What the Science Says About CBD as a Potential Antibiotic
Data presented at this year’s annual meeting for the American Society for Microbiology demonstrated that a formulation of CBD was as effective or as potent as some of the traditional antibiotics in killing bacterial skin infections. As part of the same study, certain strains of common, gram-positive bacteria and even methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, were also effectively treated by CBD in laboratory settings. The work was performed by The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Superbug Solutions in Australia.
One theory behind CBD’s effectiveness in these cases revolves around inhibiting the bacteria from creating biofilms, which normally allow bacteria to reduce its susceptibility to antibiotics. These early findings are very promising for skin or wound infections and pneumonia, both of which are conditions that are caused by gram-positive bacteria.
Gram-negative bacteria, which are more common causes for gastrointestinal infections, meningitis, and other diseases, have different ways to attach to and infect a host. Laboratory studies have so far been unable to elicit cannabinoid’s antibiotic properties against gram-negative bacteria.
All of this research into CBD’s antibiotic properties are still in early, laboratory stages or in small animal models so far. This means that the results of these studies are not immediately applicable to treating human conditions. This also means that CBD is not yet an acceptable, current treatment for infections since testing in human subjects has not been performed at a large scale level yet. A lot of additional clinical research needs to be performed to fully understand how CBD affects bacteria at the microscopic level in order to formulate effective antibiotics for the future.
So for now, it is important to continue to use antibiotics as directed by a health care provider for current conditions as these are the most effective ways of treating infections. Be on the lookout though for expanded medicinal treatment based on novel therapy development options like CBD in the coming years.
- Journal of Natural Products. Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study.
- CDC. About Antimicrobial Resistance.
- Natural Product Reports. Anti-staphylococcal plant natural products.
- Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Bacterial efflux pump inhibitors from natural sources.
- Evidence-Based Complement and Alternative Medicine. Phytochemical Profile and Antibacterial and Antioxidant Activities of Medicinal Plants Used by Aboriginal People of New South Wales, Australia.
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In vitro antibacterial activity of selected medicinal plants traditionally used in Vietnam against human pathogenic bacteria.
- American Society for Microbiology meeting, 2019. Cannabidiol is a Powerful New Antibiotic.
- CBD as a Superbug Antibiotic?
- Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. Antibacterial activity of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol.
- International Journal of Medical Microbiology. Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in bacterial biofilms.