Cannabis could be secret weapon in fight against coronavirus, scientists find

Three separate teams of medical researchers working on new ways to combat the most severe complications of Covid-19 have potentially discovered an unlikely remedy.

In a study at the University of South Carolina scientists found that – in experiments on mice – cannabis can prevent the extreme immune response that can prove fatal to coronavirus patients.

THC, the substance in cannabis that is responsible for its characteristic high, appears to suppress Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – the complication that causes many coronavirus fatalities.

The team, led by Professor Amira Mohammed, published their research in Frontiers in Pharmacology. They wrote that “treatment with THC led to 100% survival of mice”.

The deadly “cytokine storm” affecting patients with the acute form of Covid-19 can also be controlled using a chemical found in cannabis, according to an Israeli study published in August.

That study, carried out by Eybna and Cannasoul, note that a terpene found in cannabis was effective against a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including the life-threatening cytokine storm syndrome caused by Covid-19.

“The preliminary results were highly positive," Eybna's CEO Nadav Eyal told the Jerusalem Post, adding that the results demonstrated that cannabis terpenes were producing more than just a placebo effect.

Meanwhile, two cannabis researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada – Olga and Igor Kovalchuk – found that some high-CBD, low-THC cannabis extracts can block the pathways that coronavirus uses to invade cells – providing a safe, low-cost, and globally-available weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

The Kovalchuks had originally been developing a strain of cannabis to treat other conditions, but revisited their data in the light of the pandemic.

“The virus has the capacity to bind to (the protein receptor) ACE2, and get pulled into the cell, almost like a doorway.” Ivan Kovalchuk told Cannabis Therapy : “Imagine a cell being a large building. Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70%, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it.”

The University of South Carolina team say the results of their experiments with mice are promising enough to move onto human trials, but stressed that they do not recommend that people who are already suffering from coronavirus light up a joint to treat it.

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