- Could a Special Strain of Cannabis Actually Help in the Fight Against COVID-19?
- Two Canadian Researchers Believe This Particular Strain Could Act as a COVID Blocker By Preventing the Virus From Spreading After it Enters the Body and May Even Be Able to Stop it From Entering a Person’s System in the First Place
Igor Kovalchuk, a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, and Olga Kovalchuk, also a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, have been working on a novel cannabis strain with the goal of combating cancer and inflammation. But when COVID-19 struck, they shifted their focus to how the strain could potentially help fight the virus.
The research team’s work was published in the April 2020 issue of Preprints, an online medical journal.
“With the rapidly growing pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the new and challenging to treat zoonotic SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, there is an urgent need for new therapies and prevention strategies that can help curtail disease spread and reduce mortality,” reads the study.
“Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract,” the study continues. “Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility. While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is crucial for the future analysis of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19.”
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Cannabis May Act as a COVID-19 Blocker
Following a close examination of the other research based on cannabis and COVID-19, the pair realized that a certain strain of cannabis could potentially block the COVID-19 virus from entering a person’s body in the first place.
The concept is based on our body’s ACE2 receptors — which act as doorways for viruses to enter our bodies. According to the pair’s work, cannabis has the potential to decrease the level of ACE2 gene expression, and thus temporarily blocking access to the virus. Additionally, the strain being studied could prevent the COVID-19 virus from propagating once inside a host’s body.
“Cannabis sativa, especially one high in the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), has been proposed to modulate gene expression and inflammation and harbour anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties,” reads the study. “Working under the Health Canada research license, we have developed over 800 new Cannabis sativa lines and extracts and hypothesized that high-CBD C. Sativa extracts may be used to modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 target tissues.”
Still Just a Theory — Not a Fact
Currently, this idea is still just that: an idea. But it does offer hope for the future. If the Canadian researchers can prove the concept, the next step would involve manufacturing the specific cannabis strain into medical formations that could be predictable and used by the medical field. In other words, don’t expect to stroll into a cannabis dispensary and buy a gram and expect to be protected against the virus.
The research duo is also quick to admit that, similar to how the effects of cannabis can vary person to person, there’s no way to guarantee that a single strain of marijuana will help prevent or treat COVID-19. In fact, some strains may make it worse.
“While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is crucial for the future analysis of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19,” the study says. “The extracts of our most successful and novel high CBD C. sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy.”
“They can be used to develop easy-to-use preventative treatments in the form of mouthwash and throat gargle products for both clinical and at-home use,” continues the study. “Such products ought to be tested for their potential to decrease viral entry via the oral mucosa. Given the current dire and rapidly evolving epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.”
While we may be far removed from an effective cannabis treatment, or indeed a vaccine, one thing is absolutely clear: the smartest minds in the world are working overtime to find new and creative solutions to COVID-19.
And boy, are we grateful they are.