Compounds known as cannabinoids which are commonly found in the cannabis plant, have been found to prevent infection from the COVID 19 virus. This is achieved by blocking its entry into cells according to the study conducted by Oregon State University. The study titled ‘Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and Emerging Variants’ was published by the Journal of Natural Products.
The study found that two cannabinoid acid that are common in cannabis, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). It was found that these acids can bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. The acids bind to the spike protein, and they can then prevent the virus from entering cells and causing the resulting infection. This could present new treatment options for COVID-19.
These cannabinoids can be consumed orally or via a cannabinoid patch. There is a long history of the human use of cannabinoids, and they are generally considered to be safe.
The study was headed up by Richard van Breemen who is a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center at the College of Pharmacy & Linus Pauling Institute. The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University. Richard van Breemen said that the cannabinoids that were studied are common and easily accessible.
The cannabinoid acids are common in hemp and cannabis and readily available. CGBA & CBDA are not controlled substances in the UK and can be sold over the counter. Neither compound provides the user with a psychoactive effect. It is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the psychoactive compound within cannabis and what causes those who use THC to get high.
Could Cannabinoids be Effective Against New Variants?
Richard van Breemen stated that CBDA & CBGA blocked the actions of emerging variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The research found that the cannabis compounds were effective against variants of the virus.
The spike protein is the area of the virus that is also targeted by the COVID vaccines and antibody therapies. As well as the spike protein, SARS-CoV-2 has 3 other structural proteins and has 16 non-structural proteins. Richard van Breemen mentioned that there are several compounds that he describes as accessory proteins which are all targets for therapeutics that are designed to treat COVID-19.
The infection and replication cycle are what antiviral treatments are typically designed to target. The connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to the human cell’s surface receptor ACE2 is a vital step in that cycle. This means that the cell entry inhibitors such as the acidic aspects of cannabis could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and to reduce the impact of infections.
While more research needs to conducted, Richard van Breemen said that the study shows that cannabinoids could be developed into drugs to prevent or treat COVID-19.