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CBDA and CBGA Could Help Prevent Covid Infections, Study Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 13, 2022    Last Updated: Jan 14, 2022
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Two cannabis-derived compounds could help prevent serious infections from Covid-19, according to new research.

Published in the Journal of Natural Products, the study found that the cannabinoids CBDA and CBGA can bind to the spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2, making it harder for the virus to enter cells and cause infection.

The cannabis chemicals also bound well to the alpha and beta variants of Covid-19, leading the authors of the paper to claim that a combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment could be a strategy going forward in the pandemic.

Covid sativa

The researchers at Oregon State University used an affinity selection−mass spectrometry machine, which tests how well proteins (in this case, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein) bind to ligands (the cannabinoids).

They initially found that CBDA, CBGA, and THCA bound well; THC, CBD, CBC, and CBG did not.

As THCA is a controlled substance in the US, however, the researchers were unable to precure enough to continue its role in the study.

Continuing with CBDA and CBGA, the researchers incubated samples of the Covid virus with 25 micrograms per milliliter of either cannabinoid or a placebo. They then introduced the bound viruses to sample cells to simulate an infection.

A day later, the cells were stained with an antibody that binds specifically to viral RNA. When these stained cells were later observed, the researchers saw no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in the cells treated with either CBDA or CBGA, indicating that the cannabinoids had blocked out the viruses.

“The two cannabinoids with the highest affinities for the spike protein were CBDA and CGBA, and they were confirmed to block infection,” Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center and lead author of the paper, said in a statement.

Furthermore, van Breemen and his team found that the cannabinoids were just as effective at blocking the entry of the alpha and beta variants of SARS-CoV-2.

“These variants are well known for evading antibodies against early lineage SARS-CoV-2, which is obviously concerning given that current vaccination strategies rely on the early lineage spike protein as an antigen,” van Breemen added.

“Our data show CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two variants we looked at, and we hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants.”

According to van Breeman’s paper, the concentrations of CBDA and CBGA needed to block 50 percent of viruses from infecting a cell “is high but might be clinically achievable.”

Indeed, van Breeman and his team believe a clinical dose of CBDA and CBGA could be a valuable antiviral treatment for the fight against Covid-19.

“The combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should create a more challenging environment with which SARS-CoV-2 must contend, reducing the likelihood of escape,” they wrote in their paper’s conclusion.

Covid and other antivirals

While there are now several types of approved coronavirus vaccines around the world, there are relatively few approved antiviral medications.

The drug molnupiravir, which inhibits the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was only approved in the UK last November and in the US in December. Recent trial data have also shown the drug to be less effective than originally hoped; it reduced the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 by 30 percent, down from a 50 percent reduction observed earlier in the trial.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are much more effective, reducing the risk of severe Covid-19 by up to 85 percent. But they are costly and need to be administered intravenously.

So the global hunt for effective oral Covid-19 antivirals is still on. Could CBDA and CBGA form the basis of such a drug? van Breeman and his team seem to think so, but there would be a long journey of clinical trials to go before any such drug could be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or any similar body.

In the meantime, the Oregon State University team have other antiviral candidates to test, including a chemical found in licorice.

“Our earlier research reported on the discovery of another compound, one from licorice, that binds to the spike protein too,” van Breeman said. “However, we did not test that compound, licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding for that.”

*A previous version of this article stated that the relevant research team was from Ontario State University, not Oregon State University. This error was amended on January 14, 2021.


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