Scientists are working to formulate a new version of cannabis that could offer a groundbreaking treatment for gonorrhoea and superbugs.
Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia revealed that cannabidiol (CBD) can kill bacteria responsible for the STI, meningitis and legionnaires disease.
The conditions affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide, with the study potentially offering hope of a new treatment.
Adults with gonorrhoea are currently given antibiotics, but a WHO spokesperson last month warned The Sun that the STI may become resistant to the treatment.
CBD could therefore offer a new way forward, and also proved effective against antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as superbug MRSA.
Dr Mark Blaskovich, director of the University’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, is now looking to engineer a more effective version of CBD that doesn’t break down as quickly in the body.
He told the Daily Star: “If we're lucky we could design and synthesise a version in six months, or we may need to make hundreds of analogues [studies] which could take years.
“It then needs to go through the full drug development process to show safety and efficacy – which generally takes at least 10 years before it would be an approved drug.
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“That's the advantage of using CBD itself – it has already been approved for used in humans in other diseases, so the pathway for approval is much shorter.”
The researchers believe that CBD kills bacteria by “bursting” the outer cell membranes, but the process is not yet entirely clear.
However, scientists are not fully certain of how antibiotics generally work to kill bacteria.
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Discussing how many people could benefit from the treatment, Dr Blaskovich continued: “The initial indication being looked at – nasal decolonisation of MRSA before surgery – could become widespread in patients undergoing therapy.
“If an effective treatment were developed for gonorrhoea, that affects nearly 100 million people a year worldwide, with an increasing percentage of them having resistant strains.
“In the US, the CDC estimates 550,000 drug-resistant gonorrhoea infections per year, out of 1.14M total gonorrhoea infections.”
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Further trials of different CBD formulations are now being carried out by the team.
If a treatment is approved, it could lead to the first round of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in six decades.
The study was carried out by the University of Queensland’s Insitute for Molecular Bioscience and Botanix PharmaceuticalsLimited.
It was originally published in Communications Biology.
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