- University of Queensland researchers may have found new use for cannabis
- Main nonpsychoactive component of drug can kill off bacteria in gonorrhoea
- Could lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years
- Further trials of synthetic cannabidiol formulations of the drug now underwayA surprising drug could become the first antibiotic class in 60 years to kill off resistant bacteria in diseases such as gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires.
Researchers at University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience have discovered a new use for cannabis in their global fight to stop deadly superbugs.
Laboratory studies have shown synthetic cannabidiol, the main nonpsychoactive component of cannabis better known as CBD can kill bacteria in diseases such as gonorrhea, a sexually transmissible infection.
The research has been hailed as a potential world medical breakthrough, amid predictions drug-resistant infections could result in 10 million deaths worldwide a year by 2050 unless an alternate treatment is found.
The research, recently published in the Communications Biology journal is part of a collaboration between Queensland researchers and Botanix Pharmaceuticals, which lead to the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in 60 years.
'This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defence that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate,' Institute for Molecular Bioscience director Dr Mark Blaskovich said in a statement.
Researchers also discovered cannabidiol is effective in killing off superbug MRSA found in golden staph bacteria.
It may also be used to treat infected diabetic ulcers and wounds.
'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,' Dr Blaskovich added.
'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.'
Further trials of CBD formulations are now underway.
'We think we can engineer a different version of CBD that will be able to have some systemic activity,' Dr Blaskovich told the Courier Mail.
'We want something that doesn't break down in the body as quickly as CBD does. There's definitely potential there that CBD could be a prototypical representative of a new class of antibiotics.'
Botanix president Vince Ippolito described the Queensland research as a major breakthrough.
'The published data clearly establishes the potential of synthetic cannabinoids as antimicrobials,' Mr Ippolito said.
'Our company is now primed to commercialise viable antimicrobial treatments which we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now.'
The pharmaceutical company will now progress a topical CBD formulation into clinical trials.
'Those Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and we hope that this will pave the way forward for treatments for gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires disease,' Dr Blaskovich said.
'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.'
Dr Blaskovich estimates it will be 10-15 years before it becomes an approved antibiotic if further trials are successful.