Tracking the Research: Cannabis & COVID-19
While no therapy has been approved to treat coronavirus yet, continuous research is our greatest hope. Along with traditional drug therapy trials, researchers across the United States, Israel, and Canada are exploring the role that cannabis has to play. These tests include experimenting with cannabis as a potential therapy, understanding how COVID-19 could affect medical patients, and also exploring how smoking cannabis could negatively affect recovery.
At ACS, we are following the research as it unfolds. We want to be your source for the latest information on every cannabis COVID-19 trial we can find.
- NEW! > Using THC to treat COVID-induced Insomnia
- NEW! > University of Nebraska calls for more cannabinoid research
- NEW! > THC Protects Mice from deadly ARDS
- NEW! > Development of CBD Sol-Gel Nasal Spray Underway
- LATEST UPDATE! > Israel studies cannabinoids effects on white blood cells of COVID-19 patients
Ongoing CBD Research for COVID:
- Maryland seeks to confirm Canadian research about CBD for COVID Therapy
- Clinical Trail Studying CBD & Steroids Shifts from Israel to Europe
- Analysis of high CBD medical cannabis for potential COVID-19 Therapy
- CBD-infused exosomes COVID-19 therapy
Ongoing Whole Plant Research for COVID:
- Could cannabis become contaminated with COVID-19?
- Testing terpenes for viral infections, including COVID-19
- Patterns and trends of cannabis patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Israeli hospital using cannabis for COVID-19 patients
- How smoking be a risk factor for COVID-19?
[STUDY] Using THC to treat COVID-induced insomnia
In a recent study, More than 30% of healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic in China reported suffering from insomnia. Those who had sleep issues were also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress-based trauma.
A second survey performed by Sleep Standards found that 41% of front line workers in the U.S. are experiencing insomnia, 27% are suffering from nightmares, and on average all are getting about 5 hours of shut-eye each night. Although the research was performed in China and the US, the results are likely indicative of worldwide suffering.
Could marijuana help alleviate those symptoms? Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate it could.
According to a recent study cited by Benzinga, cannabis can be an extremely effective treatment for acute insomnia. Particularly when the cannabis is made up of a blend of THC and CBD. In this study conducted by the University of Western Australia, THC patients reported sleeping more hours, falling asleep faster, and getting back to sleep more easily after waking up in the middle of the night.
“This study represents the most rigorous clinical trial ever undertaken to assess the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis to treat the symptoms of chronic insomnia,” said head researcher Peter Eastwood said in a published statement.
[Peer Reviewed Article] University of Nebraska calls for more cannabinoid research
Scientists from University of
Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are teaming up to recommend more research into how CBD could treat the lung inflammation that causes most COVID-19 deaths.
In a peer-reviewed article published in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity journal, the researchers called for more studies to analyze cannabinoids for their anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. They say these properties could be the key to limiting the deadly acute lung infection caused by coronavirus. In their paper, the team offered detailed evidence to back their claim.
“Acute infection is associated with a cytokine superstorm, which contributes to the symptoms of fever, cough, muscle pain,” researchers wrote. In critical cases, lung inflammation can cause pneumonia, which is extremely risky for patients with compromised immune systems.
[Pre-Clinical Research] THC Protects Mice from ARDS
To date, CBD has received most of the headlines for COVID treatment. Here are the reasons: CBD exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, CBD is non psychoactive, which is an important factor for young and elderly patients. But CBD is not the only cannabinoid that exhibits anti-inflammatory powers.
This latest study was inspired by the fact that THC binds with CB2 receptors, which are mostly located in the cells of the immune system. When these receptors are activated by THC, they can suppress the dangerous hyper inflammatory response.
This cutting edge research published in Frontier in Pharmacology shows THC can protect mice from the effects of the hyper-inflammatory response known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARD). ARDS leads to severe lung injury, which is the number one cause of death in COVID patients.
[POTENTIAL COVID TREATMENT] Development of CBD Sol-Gel Nasal Spray Underway
PreveCeutical Medical Inc. just announced it’s partnering with UniQuest Pty Ltd. to apply its cannabinoid sol-gel technology to a new nasal spray product. This product will be intended as a potential treatment for COVID-19. While making this announcement, the company says it’s not making direct claims that this spray can eliminate, cure or contain the deadly virus at this time.
PreveCeutical will provide the CBD extract, which research has identified as having anti-inflammatory properties and the potential to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting nasal mucosa tissue. The University of Queensland team is responsible for transforming the CBD extract into a formulation that can be used with a nasal spray device. This project is set for completion in 3 months.
Once completed, PreveCeutical will execute pre-clinical testing and seek government approval to bring the treatment to market.
LATEST UPDATE! 7/22/20
[CLINICAL TRIAL] The first study in Israel to explore the effects of cannabinoids on white blood cells of COVID-19 patients is moving to the next phase!
In the latest Israeli study, researchers at the Center for Cannabis Research at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa are investigating cannabis as a viable treatment for COVID-19. Campus researchers have been observing the effect of cannabis on 19 severely ill patients and plan to launch the next phase of clinical trials in the upcoming months. The team is investigating the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties as a means to prevent cytokine storms, the inflammatory reaction that causes severe side effects in infected patients. Data shows the majority COVID-19 mortality is caused by this uncontrollable inflammatory reaction.
Scientists at the Center identified 15 cannabis strains that could effectively prevent cytokine storm through its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system. In a recent press release, the director of the Center, Dr. Igal Louria-Hayon said, “We hope that by decoding the cannabinoid activity mechanism during inflammatory storms, we can treat COVID-19 patients where conventional drugs have failed.”
To conduct the clinical trial, researchers will analyze the effects of cannabinoids on white blood cells using samples from COVID-19 patients. These samples are stored at Rambam’s National Biobank of research specimens. According to Rambam’s director, Dr. Shlomit Yehudai-Reshef, this method will help the team understand how the body responds to the disease, and develop effective vaccines and drugs. Moreover, these samples will help speed up the process. “We believe that we will be able to accelerate the pace of investigation and move more rapidly to clinical applications, due to access to the National Biobank at Rambam,” he said.
In an interview with The Fresh Toast, Dr. Louria-Haydon indicated the team is gearing up for the next phase of research.
“Based on the analysis, we will progress to the second clinical experiment where we will treat COVID-19 patients with the candidate strains that presented anti-inflammatory potential on human-derived cells (the first experiment),” Dr. Louria-Haydon said.
[LAB RESEARCH] Could cannabis contract COVID-19 and pass it on to you?
Probably not, but recent research indicates that the perfect storm of circumstances could lead to transmission from plant to person. Over seven days, researchers at the Medicinal Genomics Corporation extracted and quantitated SARS-CoV-2 that had been injected into hemp flower to estimate its stability as a disease carrier. The results showed that cannabis could contain the virus for at least a week.
According to the researchers, the contamination risk lies in two main areas. For starters, growers must come in direct contact with the plant and if they’re infected with COVID, they could theoretically infect the plant as well. Moreover, a common cannabis fertilizer known as bat guano is also known as a rich source of the coronaviruses.
These findings are alarming, but must also be taken with a grain of salt. To date, coronavirus has never been detected on cannabis and the lighting curing process may effectively prevent the plant from becoming an effective carrier. However, given that cannabis is an inhaled product that requires manual contact to produce, Medicinal Genomics developed tools to detect coronavirus on the plant. These findings may inform new protocols to ensure cannabis is safe, and ACS will closely monitor the situation to determine whether this risk is a true threat to patients and consumers.
[RESEARCH] Study in Maryland to Determine if CBD Can Treat COVID
A new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine follows the work of Canadian researchers at the University of Lethbridge to examine CBD’s role in COVID-19. The Canadian team recently published the results of their non-peer-reviewed study, indicating that CBD could help block the molecule that COVID uses to invade a person’s cells and spread throughout their body.
The new Maryland-based study attempts to further verify if CBD can reduce the activity of disease-carrying molecules, and if it could be useful in preventing cytokine storms–the excessive inflammatory response associated with lung damage and death.
In order to track their hypothesis, Maryland researchers will conduct a lab-based experiment to investigate whether CBD has antiviral effects on cells infected with COVID-19. The team will use a CBD formulation created by bioRemedies MD and hope to shed greater light on whether or not CBD could be used as an effective treatment.
In another Israeli clinical trial, Rabin Medical Center announced plans to begin administering CBD along with standard steroids to ten COVID-19 patients currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. Doctors are hoping that CBD will enhance the effectiveness of steroids for those in life-threatening conditions.
Rabin Medical Center is partnering with Stero Biotechs and Mor Research Application in hopes of providing a quick, safe and effective path to recovery for patients all around the world. If the results are positive, the trial may expand to 40 additional patients.
June 22, 2020 Update
Following the announcement of this clinical trial, a fortunate chain of events sparked a change in plans for this clinical trial. The Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva ran out of patients and several Israeli medical centers closed their coronavirus wards as the number of patients significantly waned. As a result, Stero is now turning its attention toward Europe who is still seeing surging cases in many countries.
While COVID is now a key element in their research, it was not the main focus of their tria. First and foremost, Stero hopes to determine if CBD can enhance the effects of corticosteroids for autoimmune illness such as lupus and Crohn’s disease. Now since corticosteroids have also been shown recently to reduce the risk of the hyper immune system response that leads to death in nearly 70% of COVID cases, Stero seeks to understand that potential as well. In fact a recent UK trial showed that a specific corticosteroid dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by on-third. If CBD could support this proven therapy, theoretically thousands more lives could be saved.
In the 4-month trial, Stereo will give patients 300 mg a day–10 times the amount generally used by consumers as a daily wellness supplement. Stero cautions readers NOT to experiment with this dose at home.
[RESEARCH) Testing terpenes for viral infections, including COVID-19
CannaSoul, a research and development firm, identifies itself as a “corona lab” because it’s promoting 2 cannabis studies about the disease. In the first study, CannaSoul is attempting to identify the cannabis molecules that can suppress the body’s dangerous immune response to COVID-19, which causes inflammation and severe side effects. Their hope is to isolate the plant’s molecules that can be used as a complementary treatment to steroids. In its second study, CannaSoul is examining whether components in the plant can help prevent the virus from entering the body.
Eybna, a technology company and terpenes manufacturer, created NT-VRL based on research about terpene’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits. The treatment is intended to be used via inhalation. Through this effective delivery method, terpenes can directly contact the infected cells in the respiratory system. According to Eybna’s CEO Nadav Eyal, “This type of delivery method is a game-changer enabling us to achieve therapeutic qualities from these unique phytochemicals like never before,” Eyal added.
The companies are working together specifically to target high-risk populations and actively sick patients. Using Eybna’s NT-VRL™ terpene formulation and CannaSoul’s analytical expertise, they’re hoping to achieve positive results.
Edited as of May 24, 2020.
[RESEARCH] Analysis of high CBD medical cannabis for potential COVID-19 therapy
Scientists from Canada’s University of Lethbridge in partnership with research firms, Pathway RX and Swysh recently found that specific medical Cannabis sativa components in potent CBD strains could offer meaningful treatment for COVID-19 symptoms. The University stresses that further clinical trials are required to make definitive claims, but they are eager to share what they’ve discovered and recently submitted their study for peer review.
In this study, University of Lethbridge researchers examined human tissue to discover how cannabis extracts affect CE2 and TMPRSS2 protein receptors. These are the same receptors that coronavirus binds to in order to hijack and infect the body. Specifically, the team used cannabis to modulate the levels of these proteins and found that 13 different high-CBD extracts could downregulate TMPRSS2–thereby inhibiting one of the key gateways for COVID-19 virus to enter human cells. Based on this research, specific strains of medical cannabis extracts could theoretically be used as preventative mouthwash therapies. The Canadian research team is “actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials.”
*May 24th, 2020 Update*
Research partnership extends to Asia
On May 13th, Swysh announced a new partnership with ASIA, an international agri-technology company, to advance the development of cannabis therapy for COVID-19. Through the partnership, ASIA will deploy Swysh’s technology to further research, develop, test and validate applications of its high-CBD extracts to help reduce virus transmission rates. In a joint statement, executives from ASIA and Swysh said, “In addition to the domestic research programs Swysh is implementing, we hope to expand on the network being developed by ASIA in Asia to continue the thorough research and development process on the use of hemp extracts for prevention of SARS-CoV2 infection, especially at a time when such significant need exists for preventative and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.”
Edited as of May 24, 2020.
Patterns and trends of cannabis patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Led by Principal Investigator, epidemiologist and professor Denise C Vidot, PhD, the University of Miami (UM) is spearheading a survey to analyze cannabis patients in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The first goal of the survey is to understand how recent changes in access to medical cannabis could negatively affect patients’ mental and physical health. The second aim is to investigate how the sharing of inhaled cannabis products could contribute to accelerated coronavirus transmission. While the study is still in progress, ACS contacted Vidot to get exclusive details on the preliminary results.
The Study Purpose
Unfortunately medical cannabis patients are facing delays in accessing treatment due to COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions as well as economic hardship. Many of these patients have weak immune systems and chronic conditions that require consistent treatment. Without access, these patients could experience seriously detrimental effects. That’s why the University of Miami team is cultivating data to analyze patterns and trends of vulnerable adult users during the outbreak.
In partnership with UM’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, Office of Hemispheric and Global Affairs, and Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the team hopes to explore changes in frequency, dose, and route of cannabis use, along with any associated changes in mental and physical health. The goal is to have every medical cannabis user worldwide complete the anonymous survey.
Over 1,000 medical cannabis users completed the COVID-19 Cannabis Health survey so far and the initial results were alarming. In an exclusive interview, Vidot told ACS that the majority of respondents suffer from mental health, chronic pain and cardio-metabolic disease. Vidot also confirmed these patients are struggling to access medication. These are the preliminary results:
- 47% were worried about paying for their medical cannabis.
- 53% do not have advance supply of their cannabis medication.
Early data also reveal patients are increasingly turning to alcohol in place of medical cannabis treatments. As a result, these patients are experiencing an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Results like these are also unnerving to medical cannabis professionals who work tirelessly to deliver this natural therapy to adults in need. According to Dr. Michelle Weiner, one of the investigators of the study and investigator, South Florida’s Medical Cannabis and CBD expert, this survey illustrates a real issue that cannot be overlooked.“Medicinal cannabis users comprise a vulnerable subpopulation that should not be marginalized in the joint effort to flatten the curve,” said Michelle Weiner.
UM’s COVID-19 Cannabis Health Study also asks patients about their tendency to share products such as joints and vapes, in an attempt to analyze how this could contribute to the spread of the disease. According to Vidot, “16.2% of adults switched from smoking to ingesting cannabis via edibles or tinctures due to potential transmission risks and COVID-related lung damage.”
UM’s COVID-19 Cannabis Health study is set for completion in August.
Edited as of April 28, 2020.
CBD-infused exosomes as a targeted COVID-19 therapy
On April 17, InnoCan Pharma announced a sponsorship research agreement with Ramot Tel Aviv University to study CBD as a cell therapy treatment for COVID-19. In a first of its kind study, the Israeli team will inject CBD into exosomes–cells that transport proteins and genetic information to other cells–and use them to target organs damaged by coronavirus. Researchers hypothesize that CBD’s known anti-inflammatory powers will help repair damage in the body and particularly the infected lung cells.
Researchers also believe this therapy could target diseases of the Central Nervous System (CNS), which may provide treatments for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease. The extensive research, funded by InnoCan, will cost about $450,000 in the first stage alone. The terms of the agreement give InnoCan exclusive rights to Ramon’s technology to develop the CBD-based cell therapy treatment.
Edited as of April 28, 2020.
Israeli hospital to begin administering cannabis to COVID-19 patients
Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv announced plans to examine the effects of cannabis on coronavirus patients by administering active plant extracts, such as CBD to those in moderate condition. Doctors are seeking to capitalize on the plant’s antiviral and anti inflammatory properties to ease the symptoms of the disease. The hospital plans to administer treatment to dozens of patients in multiple wards throughout the hospital.
Led by Dr. Barak Cohen, a senior anesthesiologist and head of the corona management at Ichilov, the team of researchers stressed that this is a “novel approach” to treatment that would only incorporate the safe and non-addictive components of cannabis. The study is currently only associated with the hospital and does not have any pharmaceutical or government sponsorship
Edited as of April 28, 2020.
How smoking cannabis (and other drugs) could be a risk factor for COVID-19
The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced in March that it would provide funding for research on how smoking could negatively affect patient recovery from COVID-19. In its announcement, NIDA specified that it seeks to understand whether or not the most vulnerable populations, including those who smoke tobacco, marijuana and vapes, are subject to even greater risk.
NIDA explained that COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs, which could pose a serious threat to those with a history of smoking. Additionally, people who use opioids or methamphetamine along with those who suffer from HIV could be especially vulnerable to attacks on the lungs and immune systems. That’s why NIDA is seeking to fund research to determine how drug use–especially smoking–could be a risk factor for the onset and spread of the disease.
NIDA will accept applications through March 31, 2021 and will give projects $100,000 per year in funding, but studies must be completed within two years.
Edited as of April 28, 2020.
The process of creating a vaccine or cannabis-based therapy for COVID-19 has only just begun. As of today, we have no clinical research to warrant medical claims and the FDA has made that point clear. However, current clinical trials and previous research on the plant’s therapeutic value may assist researchers in the hopes to develop an effective complementary treatment.
At ACS, we strive to provide the latest cannabis news as it unfolds, and we want to hear from you. We are an ISO Accredited, DEA Registered CLIA licensed Laboratory which means we can do human trials and participate in research studies, testing the effects of hemp. The future is in research. . Do you know of a clinical trial we may be missing? Do you need a resource to partner with you on your government backed study? Contact ACS today.
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