CBD Cheat-sheet: Antibiotic Resistance

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is considered to be the largest threat ever to global health, development, food security and sustainability. This may affect any person, regardless of country, ethnicity or social status. It is a natural process and is caused by the misuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans. These infections caused by antibiotic-resistant microorganisms are harder to treat. The drugs we have are becoming less effective, and there are no new drugs being discovered. These drug resistance microorganisms cause longer hospital stays, increased mortality and higher medical costs. This resistance leads to the creation of ‘superbugs’ that are almost impossible to treat.

Antibiotic activity of CBD (Cannabidiol)

The minimum inhibitory concentration (the least amount of drug required to stop a bacterial colony from growing) of cannabidiol for the bacteria streptococci and staphylococci in broth medium is about 1-5 mg/ml. at this range, both the compounds are bactericidal. Media that contain serum greatly reduce the activity. (4% to 5% serum-containing media have a MIC of about 50 mg/ml). Most gram-negative bacteria are resistant to cannabidiol. (This has been the case for many antibiotics).

What are antibiotics?

These are drugs used to treat and prevent bacterial infections. They include penicillins, which were the first antibiotics to be discovered. We also have sulfonamides, aminoglycosides, macrolides, and many more groups.

How resistance develops

It is important to remember that it is the bacteria and not humans that develop resistance to antibiotics. When these resistant bacteria infect humans or animals, they are harder to treat with conventional medicines.

There are many reasons as to why bacteria become resistant to the drugs that previously had an effect on them. Key among these reasons are mutations and acquiring genes for enzymes that break down the drug into inactive compounds. This is the major reason behind the resistance to penicillin, the novel antibiotic.  These mutations are acquired from other bacteria in the environment in many ways, and the resistant species are propagated. This resistant can also be spontaneous. Other reasons involve the pathways of the drug within the bacterial cell. There can be pumps that remove the drug from the inside of the cell, or there may be reduced penetration of the drug into the bacterial cell. The bacteria may change its metabolism, or change the active site of the drug it develops resistance to. All these methods have been identified to be the major links to antibiotic resistance.

Cannabis contains antibacterial agents

For some time now, it has been known that marijuana has some cannabinoids that are antibacterial. The potential of these cannabinoids to address the scourge of antibiotic resistance is still under investigation, but the results are promising. These antibacterial cannabinoids include all the five major cannabinoids. These are cannabidiol, cannabichromene, cannabigerol, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannabinol. These have shown some potency against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains that are clinically relevant. This discovery makes cannabinoids a newer discovered antibiotic in these tough times.

The bacteria studied were, however, remarkably tolerant to the prenyl moiety (in normal cannabinoids) compared to the n-pentyl moiety (abnormal cannabinoids). The modification of the cannabinoids by methylation and acetylation of certain phenolic hydroxyls, introducing the second prenyl moiety and esterifying the carboxylic groups of pre-cannabinoids were actually detrimental for the antibacterial activity. This was the case from the research conducted in Università del Piemonte Orientale in Italy.

What is CBD?

CBD is the short form of the name cannabidiol. This is a compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is one among the other 113 cannabinoids found in this plant. Cannabidiol makes up to 40% of cannabis extracts and has been studied for many different uses. According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, products that contain cannabidiol are not defined as dietary supplements as they have been studied as a new drug, although it is still marketed as dietary supplements.

Taking cannabidiol is by mouth. It is used by many people for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and muscle disorders such as dystonia, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Some also inhale it to help quit smoking.

The major active ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD Chemistry

Cannabidiol is a compound that is insoluble in water but dissolves in many organic solvents such as pentane. It appears colorless and crystalline at room temperature. It can be oxidized to Quinone if it is in strongly basic media then exposed to air. It has been synthesized successfully in the laboratory.

Tackling the epidemic

Tackling the antibiotic resistance scourge requires the efforts of everyone, from you as an individual, health professionals, policymakers, those in the health sector and those in the agricultural sector. Individuals are key in this fight. Individuals should ensure that they do not misuse antibiotics, and only take them when prescribed by a medical professional. Always following the health worker’s advice on taking antibiotics and ensuring you complete the entire dose prescribed is key. Never share leftover antibiotics!

Health professionals should also ensure that they handle patients in the cleanest way possible, and to prescribe antibiotics when necessary and report any resistant organisms encountered to the surveillance teams. They should also educate their patients on safer practices to avoid infections.

Those in the agricultural sector should only give antibiotics as prescribed by a veterinary doctor. These antibiotics should also not be used as growth promoters or prophylaxis in healthy animals.

Remember that when we will fail to treat any bacterial infection with all available drugs, we will all be at risk.


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