Study shows CBD may enable anti-biotics to fight superbugs

Science & Medical

An opinion piece on UKCSC.co.uk recently argued that nationalising Big Pharma was the key to legalising cannabis medicine and solving the looming anti-biotics crisis. Now a study from the University of Westminster has found that cannabidiol (CBD) oil may hold the key to fighting so-called superbugs.

In 2017 England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies warned that “the world is facing an antibiotics apocalypse” because of the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistance bacteria. This has been caused by Big Pharma’s reluctance to invest in new anti-biotics because other areas of medicine are more profitable.

CBD has already found to be “remarkably effective” at treating bacterial skin infections in mice. Furthermore, tests have shown that the drug does not lose its effectiveness after extended treatment in the experiments.

This new study showed that CBD may increase the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments, especially for E. coli. CDB’s effect on staphylococcus aureus was minimal.

Bacteria can become resistant to anti-biotics because they release small compounds that enable them to develop protective membrane vesicles (MVs). But in this study, CBD demonstrated an ability to inhibit E. coli’s ability to build MVs, enabling antibiotics to destroy the bacteria and prevent them from spreading.

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“When applied in combination with a range of antibiotics, CBD increased anti-bacterial effects of selected antibiotics, depending on bacteria type,” the study reads. “CBD, in combination with specific antibiotics, may thus possibly be used as an adjuvant to selectively target bacteria to sensitize them to antibiotic treatment and reduce antibiotic resistance.”

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Sigrun Lange, a senior lecturer in molecular pathology, said: “Our findings highlight that cannabis oil application, in conjunction with antibiotic treatment, may be an interesting addition to the development of new antibiotics to help reduce antibiotic resistance, especially given that antibiotic resistance is on the rise and predicted to be a global health disaster.

Lange’s team grew E. coli in a laboratory and treated the bacteria with antibiotics (erythromycin, vancomycin, rifampicin, kanamycin and colistin). They applied one micromolar of CBD to the bacteria and monitored the effects over an hour, and repeated the procedure with five micromolars of CBD oil. 

The lesser dose of CBD oil reduced the production of MVs by an average of 73%, while the stronger amount brought the number down by 54%.

“The next step is now to set up clinical trials to provide the evidence of benefit in real patients,” said Lange.

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