According to a research published this week by scientists from Oregon State University, cannabinoids in cannabis can prevent infection from the virus that causes Covid-19 by obstructing its entry into cells. A paper on the study, “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants,” was released online Monday in the journal Antiviral Therapy.
Cannabis contains a number of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, which have been shown to block the virus from entering cells in lab experiments at Oregon State. These findings suggest that cannabis could be developed as an antiviral drug against the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and a variety of other viruses that cause pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
The SARS-CoV virus first emerged in 2002 as a global outbreak of coronavirus, originating from the Chinese province of Guangdong. It left more than 8,000 people dead and infected about an estimated 8,000 others before it was contained by early 2003.
The researchers discovered that two cannabinoid acids found in hemp varieties of cannabis, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, commonly known as CBDA, can bind to SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. The compounds may help prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection by binding to the spike protein and not allowing it to bind with human cells.
“This shows that, in principle, one could develop antiviral drugs that would interfere with this binding,” Salve Regina University researcher Peter Kaufmann told the Washington Post . “If you do interfere [with SARS-CoV], there’s a good chance you’d also be interfering with some similar viruses.”
Cannabinoids Effective Against New Variants
Dr. Tewari, however, stated that CBDA and CBGA effectively blocked the action of emerging variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, stating that “our study demonstrated that hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”
The spike protein is the part of the viral target that is targeted by Covid-19 vaccines and antibody treatment. SARS-CoV-2 also has three more structural proteins and 16 nonstructural proteins, as well as several compounds dubbed “accessory” proteins that van Breemen suggests may be good drug targets for preventing Covid-19.
According to van Breemen, cannabinoids have the potential to become medications for preventing or treating Covid-19.
“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” van Breemen said. “They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.”
The study, which was published in the Journal of Virology last month, also revealed that cannabinoids were successful against new variants of the virus, according to Dr. Peter Van Breeman, who is also an author on the paper.
“These variants are notorious for circulatory disease, as they’re difficult to treat and frequently relapse. These individuals had early lineage SARS-CoV-2 immunity (specifically those who developed neutralizing antibodies against the early lineage spike protein). “Our data show CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two variants we looked at, and we hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants.”
According to the study, while “resistant variants may still arise” in the context of wide cannabinoids use, vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more difficult environment for SARS-CoV-2.