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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. Check out the full list of known studies below, along with the latest updates for September, 2020.
[Clinical Trial] Canadian Pharma Proposes CBD to Treat COVID-19 Therapy Side Effects
Akseera Pharma, a Canadian startup is planning to begin clinical trials and manufacturing CBD as a treatment for cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) linked to side effects of COVID-19 drug therapies. If left untreated, arrhythmias can lead to cardiac arrest and other serious heart conditions.
In March, Akseera launched a subsidiary company to begin the manufacturing and research process. According to Manit Patel, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of the company, if all goes well they may be launching CBD for COVID-19 before the end of the year.
In a recent interview on Money Control, Akseera’s President and Co-Founder Shreema Merchants said, “Some of repurposed drugs like hydroxychloroquine are found to cause arrhythmia in certain cases–a lethal side-effect that CBD can rescue. We found ourselves in a very obvious position to help make COVID treatment safer and affordable, and accessible to patients with comorbidities,” Merchant said.
Researchers aren’t sure why exactly CBD is effective in treating arrhythmias, but in vivo research found that CBD reduced the number of arrhythmias when given prior to an episode. Researchers theorize that the endocannabinoid 2-AG plays a crucial role, but this is not proven.
[Research] Study reveals how a THC cannabinoid may treat acute respiratory distress syndrome
COVID-19 has been known to cause cytokine storms, sending the immune system into overdrive, which can trigger Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is the number one cause of death resulting from COVID-19 respiratory complications.
According to research from the University of South Carolina published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, THC can prevent this deadly side effect, when ARDS is caused by a bacterial toxin known as Staphylococcal enterotoxin. The study’s authors further deduced that THC could be a viable treatment for ARDS caused by COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
“Collectively, this study suggests that the activation of cannabinoid receptors may serve as a therapeutic modality to treat ARDS associated with COVID-19,” according to the study’s abstract.
[Research] Task force in Congo Studying CBG Plant-Based Preventative Treatment
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi recently formed a Corona Task Force to research local solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following his call for help, King King Organics–a pharmaceutical grade cannabis cultivation and extraction company–stepped up to research plant based ingredients and offer one of its existing cannabinoid-based products to treat current patients.
KKOG’s “Immunite” product contains CBG along with essential vitamins A, B, C, D, B6, and Chlorophyll. The company touts Immunite as a potential preventative treatment to strengthen the immune system and manage symptoms of respiratory tract infections and inflammation.
According to Mr. Rene Joseph, the CEO of KKOG in a recent press release, “Immunite is a significant breakthrough that could help in limiting severe COVID-19 infections on the continent of Africa, we are grateful to have had the assistance of the president of Congo as well as all the Ministers who have supported in making our work happen.”
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.
[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.
[STUDY] CBD for Anxiety Related to COVID-19
Beyond CBD’s ability to potentially alleviate severe COVID-19 symptoms, and block entry points for COVID-19, researchers also cite a study on Ebola disease patients in which CBD was suggested as supplementary treatment. They say patients recovering from COVID-19 may undergo similar mental and social stressors due to residual chronic inflammation and autoimmune responses. This indicates that randomized clinical trials to test how CBD can alleviate anxiety and fear associated with COVID-19 may be beneficial.
[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.
[RESEARCH New 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.
[CLINICAL TRIAL] Combining CBD with steroid treatment in COVID-19 patients
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] Analysis of high CBD medical cannabis for potential COVID-19 therapy
Scientists from Canada’s University of Lethbridge in partnership with Canadian 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.”
[RESEARCH] 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.
Whole Plant Research
[STUDY UPDATE] Terpenes Are Better Than CBD Alone!
Early results from an ongoing Israeli study show that a combination of CBD with terpenes, compounds that provide the aroma and flavor in cannabis and many other plants, was 2 times more effective at inhibiting cytokine activity than dexamethasone, a corticosteroid treatment found to significantly help hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The study looks at NT-VRL, a proprietary terpene formulation developed by Eybna, which contains 30 individual terpenes that are potential anti-inﬂammatory agents. Researchers tested CBD alone, CBD with NT-VRL, and dexamethasone. Conducted on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors, the study induced inflammation, and performed cytotoxicity tests prior to a cytokine storm experiment to ensure cell viability.
The best results came from the combination of CBD and NT-VRL, which was able to inhibit around 90% of the tested cytokines. Dexamethasone was only able to inhibit around 30% of the cytokines, which means combining terpenes with CBD might be twice as effective as the current leading treatment.
[Study] Exploring The Connection Between Cannabis Use & COVID
While cannabis use may help alleviate severe COVID-19 cases, a study done by researchers at the University of Western Australia found that cannabis use was also correlated to an increased risk of contracting the disease. Dr. Peter Grinspoon, MD, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, points out that this type of study can’t show causation, but he does say there are theoretical reasons that cannabis may be a risk factor for COVID-19, particularly in early or mild cases.
CBD actually suppresses the immune system, which early on, when our immune system needs to be strongest, could lead to a worse infection. Also, smoking cannabis can cause mild, chronic bronchitis, which puts lungs at a disadvantage, and the behaviors associated with cannabis smoking, such as gathering in groups, and sharing joints and pipes, can also spread infection.
[Observational study] Vaping and Increased Risk Factor
Stanford University research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers and young adults who use e-cigarettes are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who both vape and smoke traditional cigarettes are 7 times more likely. The Stanford study included 4,351 people, ages 13-24, who completed online surveys in May. The theory is that lung damage caused by vaping may make users more susceptible. The virus also might spread through the aerosols they exhale, or by sharing vapes. Users are also more prone to touching their mouths.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDY] Patterns and trends of cannabis patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Led by epidemiologist and professor Denise C Vidot, PhD, the University of Miami (UM) Department of Public Health Sciences is surveying cannabis patients worldwide to analyze the effects of coronavirus on their health and wellbeing. The first goal of the survey is to understand how recent changes in access to medical cannabis could negatively affect their mental and physical health. The second aim is to investigate the sharing of inhaled cannabis products, which could contribute to accelerated coronavirus transmission.
Unfortunately medical cannabis patients are facing delays in accessing treatment due to COVID-19-related supply chain and business disruptions. This could have seriously detrimental effects, which is why researchers at UM are looking at data to analyze patterns and trends of patients during the outbreak. The goal is to have every medical cannabis user worldwide complete the anonymous survey, providing details about changes in frequency, dosage, and route of cannabis use, along with any associated changes in mental and physical health. The survey also asks patients about sharing products such as joints and vapes, in an attempt to analyze how this could contribute to spread of the disease.
This study is set for completion in August but ACS has exclusive access to the preliminary findings. Check our blog tomorrow for the exclusive information.
Edited as of April 29, 2020.
[CLINICAL TRIAL] 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.
[RESEARCH] 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.
ACS Laboratory’s testing panel and protocol is compliant with Florida’s Hemp Program. ACS meets federal requirements by testing to the standards of Florida, the strictest state. The compliance panel consists of: Cannabinoid Potency, Pesticides, Residual Solvents (unless its flower), heavy metals, mycotoxins, moisture, microbiology.