Canadian researchers are studying the potential for marijuana to be used to prevent coronavirus infections.
Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Calgary are studying more than 400 strains of cannabis and have determined that at least a dozen may offer potential as part of treatments to prevent coronavirus from infecting a host.
According to the researchers, the effective strains have, in some instances, managed to reduce virus receptors, which reduces the chance for an individual to catch coronavirus.
“A number of them have reduced the number of these receptors by 73 per cent, the chance of it getting in is much lower,” Dr Igor Kovalchuk told the Calgary Herald. “If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.”
Mr Kovalchuk said much more research would be necessary before they understand precisely whether CBD, THC or some combination of ingredients is causing the reduction in receptors.
He added researchers would likely focus on understanding how high-CBD strains work, as CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and can be taken frequently and in high-concentration without the risk of getting the patient high or otherwise impairing them.
The preliminary study, which has not been peer-reviewed, focused on preventing coronavirus from finding a host while in the lungs, intestines and mouth. Should further research prove fruitful, Mr Kovalchuk said medicinal mouth washes, gargles, gel caps or inhalants could potentially be used to help reduce their risk of infection.
“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,” he said. “Given the current dire and rapidly evolving epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.”
Despite the initial promising results, researchers have been unable to secure funding to begin conducting clinical trials.
“We have clinicians who are willing to work with us but for a lot of companies in the cannabis business, it’s significant cash that they can’t afford,” Mr Kovalchuk said. “Our work could have a huge influence – there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 per cent.”
In addition to the Canadian study, a group of Israeli researchers have also begun clinical trials meant to test whether CBD can be used as a way to repair cells that have been damaged by Covid-19.