Could CBD Fight Superbugs? Hemp Compound Shows Promise As an Antibiotic.

By Rachael Rettner | June 24, 2019 07:14am ET

The quest for new antibiotics has led researchers to a surprising candidate: the hemp compound CBD.

A new study finds that CBD, or cannabidiol, is “remarkably effective” at killing bacteria, at least in a test tube, the researchers in the new study said. The results showed that CBD had antibiotic effects against a number of so-called Gram-positive bacteria, including types of staph and strep bacteria, as well as strains that had become resistant to other antibiotic drugs.

The work will be presented June 23 in San Francisco at ASM Microbe, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology; the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

New antibiotic?

CBD has garnered a lot of attention in recent years for its potential to provide therapeutic effects without producing the high typically associated with marijuana. But so far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved CBD only in prescription-drug form for treating rare types of childhood epilepsy.

In addition, studies suggest that CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects, but whether it also has antibiotic effects has been unclear.

In the new study, the researchers tested whether a CBD could kill different types of bacteria.

In experiments in lab dishes, CBD did just as well as the prescription antibiotics vancomycin and daptomycin in killing certain strains of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. The compound even worked against strains of staph and strep bacteria that had become resistant to vancomycin and daptomycin, the authors said.

CBD also showed activity against bacterial biofilms, which form when bacteria secrete proteins to form films on surfaces. These biofilms can cause difficult-to-treat infections.

Future work

Experts cautioned that many different compounds appear to show antibiotic effects in lab dishes, known as “in vitro” experiments, but these findings don’t always translate to people.

Many more studies will be needed to see if CBD could be used as an antibiotic in people. Research will need to determine the dose needed to kill bacteria in the body, whether this dose is safe and how the antibiotic might be delivered.

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