According to a study published this week by researchers affiliated with Oregon State University, compounds in cannabis can prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19 by inhibiting its entry into cells.
The researchers discovered that two cannabinoid acids found in hemp cannabis varietals, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA, can bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
"Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2," the researchers wrote in an abstract of the study.
The compounds, by binding to the spike protein, can block the virus from entering cells and causing infection, thereby opening up new paths for disease prevention and treatment.
Richard van Breemen, a researcher from Oregon State's Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, led the study, which was conducted in collaboration with experts from Oregon Health & Science University. According to Van Breeman, the cannabinoids investigated are common and widely available.
CBDA and CBGA, he added, inhibited the effect of developing COVID-19 viral strains. Researchers found that hemp compounds were similarly effective against SARS-CoV-2 subtypes, including variant B.1.1.7 in the U.K. and variant B.1.351 in South Africa, according to the article.
COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapy target the spike protein, which is the same component of the virus. SARS-CoV-2 contains three more structural proteins, 16 nonstructural proteins, and many compounds van Breemen dubbed "accessory" proteins, all of which could be targets for medications developed to prevent the virus.
Despite the fact that more research is needed, van Breemen stated that the cannabinoids could be developed into medications to prevent or cure COVID-19.
Van Breeman also mentioned that the research revealed cannabis were effective against new forms of the virus, which he described as "one of the key concerns" for health officials and clinicians during the epidemic.
While resistant variants may potentially emerge as a result of widespread usage of marijuana, researchers believe that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment will create a far more difficult environment for SARS-CoV-2.
The study stressed that cannabis extract alone will not protect an unvaccinated individual from getting COVID, and that any treatment should be accompanied with appropriate doses of the COVID vaccine.
A report on the research, "Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants," was published online on Monday by the Journal of Natural Products.