Cannabis compounds can prevent covid, study shows

Hemp compounds bind to coronavirus spike protein and block infection in cells

Hemp compounds bind to coronavirus spike protein and block infection in cells

Photo: DW / Deutsche Welle

two compounds of cannabis can help prevent covid-19, according to a laboratory study published in Journal of Nature Products. Conducted by researchers from two American universities in Oregon, it concluded that cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) can prevent the coronavirus from penetrating human cells.

The two acids are commonly found in hemp varieties. Through an innovative chemical screening technique, performed by researchers at the University of Oregon (OSU), they were found to bind to the spike protein of the coronavirus and, in this way, block a substance that the pathogen uses to infect.

Scientists have already carried out laboratory tests with the alpha and beta variants of the new coronavirus, but have not yet performed human studies.

History of safe use in humans

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and many extracts from it,” explains lead study author Richard van Breemen, a researcher at the OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

“It’s not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marihuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed that hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of Sars-Cov-2, including alpha, which was initially detected in the UK, and beta, which was first detected in South Africa.”

THE hemp, scientifically known as Cannabis sativa, is used in all types of products including food, cosmetics, body lotions and dietary supplements. “These compounds, which can be taken orally, have a long history of safe use in humans,” says Van Breemen. “They have the potential to prevent and treat Sars-Cov-2 infection.”

Sars-Cov-2 is characterized by crown-shaped protrusions on its outer surface and has RNA strands that encode its four main structural proteins (spike, envelope, membrane and nucelocapsid), in addition to 16 non-structural proteins and several accessory proteins.

According to Van Breemen, every part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral measures. And an especially critical step in preventing infections is interfering with the binding of the spike protein receptor with the human cell surface receptor ACE2. The spike protein is the target of the main anti-covid vaccines available, as well as of therapies with monoclonal antibodies.

Prevent and shorten the duration of infection

The authors of the research believe that, although it is still at an early stage, cannabinoid acids could be used in drugs to prevent, treat or even shorten a coronavirus infection.

The components would block the infection by binding to the spike proteins and thus preventing them from binding to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant in the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs. Van Breemen emphasizes that the use of compounds that block the interaction between the virus and the receptor has already been shown to be useful in patients with other viral infections, such as HIV-1 and hepatitis.

The expert adds that resistant variants can still emerge amid the widespread use of cannabinoids, but that the combination of vaccination and treatment with CBDA and CBGA should create a very inhospitable environment for Sars-Cov-2.

About Abhishek Pratap

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