Antibiotic resistance represents an increasingly common scenario where harmful bacteria becomes resistant to the antibiotics we have developed to fight it. Research into the mechanics of this is ongoing, but it is thought that the over-prescription and misuse of antibiotics in recent decades has been a major factor. The good news is that cannabis can help, as recent research into antibiotic resistance has shed light on the use of so-called ‘helper compounds’ – these are non-antibiotic compounds which, when used alongside antibiotics, can improve the efficacy of the drugs.

A new study from University of Southern Denmark, just published in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates that cannabidiol (CBD) from the cannabis plant is effective as a helper compound. The study measured the impact of using cannabidiol alongside an antibiotic to combat Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which is a common human pathogen. This bacteria is already known to have developed some resistance and, in some countries, it is difficult to treat. The results showed that when treated with a combination of the antibiotic bacitracin and cannabidiol, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria could no longer divide in order to multiply. Additionally, the bacteria’s cell membrane was destabilized and key gene expressions within the bacteria cells were lowered.

This study also compliments the fact that researchers Australia have found that CBD, could also one day day be used as an antibiotic. They discovered that it is very effective at killing a number of bacteria, including bacteria that have become resistant to other common antibiotics.

The research was presented at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting, which took place last month in San Francisco. Dr. Mark Blaskovich, one of the researchers from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. His team have shown that  CBD works in animal models as a topical treatment or possibly on bacteria on the skin before surgery. He told the Daily News:

“In terms of resistance, that’s one of the exciting things we have found — unlike other common Gram-positive antibiotics like vancomycin or daptomycin, we found cannabidiol has a very low propensity to induce resistance, which hopefully means it would be safe to use without causing resistance to rapidly appear.” (source)

Scientists  have also looked at five cannabis compounds for their antibiotic properties and found that cannabigerol (CBG), was quite potent at killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most common hospital superbugs we know of.

CBG is not psychoactive, and the lab showed that it killed common MRSA microbes and “persister” cells that are very resistant to antibiotics and that often drive repeat infections. How amazing is that? The compound also cleared up hard-to-shift “biofilms” of MRSA that can form on the skin and on medical implants.

As The Guardian points out,

Having seen how effective the substance was against bacteria in the lab, the researchers decided to test CBG’s ability to treat infections in animals. In a study that has not yet been published, they found that CBG cured mice of MRSA infections as effectively as vancomycin, a drug widely considered to be the last line of defence against drug-resistant microbes. The study is under review at the ACS Infectious Diseases journal.

Eric Brown, a microbiologist who led the work at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said cannabinoids were “clearly great drug-like compounds”, but noted it was early days in assessing the compounds for use in the clinic. “There is much work to do to explore the potential of the cannabinoids as antibiotics from the safety standpoint,” he said. (source)