In the month of December 2019, a virus known as SARS-CoV-2 (Covid 19) began its rapid descent on the world. Soon after we all found ourselves in outlier territory trying to navigate our way through a global pandemic. On January 31st, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid 19 a public health emergency and a few days following that, global air travel became restricted. Businesses began to close; public access was severely stunted. The world might not have stood still, but it certainly slowed down.
Life as most of us knew it changed during the Winter of 2019. Logistics became so disrupted it created a global shortage of essential supplies that crippled the populus as a collective. We’re still in the midst of supply-chain suffrage, too – the costs of available goods and services have skyrocketed. In addition to that, our healthcare systems are encumbered by a lessened, but still grand, number of positive SARS-CoV-2 patients. As of February 9th 2022, the CDC estimates that we’re still seeing upwards of 215,418 new cases daily. These statistics are concerning, but far less than in the beginning of the pandemic.
As new social-distancing guidelines came into effect, the social structure of our way of life became equally disrupted; the CDC recommended an at least 6ft barrier between you and another individual. A mask mandate trickled federally down into state regulation in the hopes that human-to-human transmission would be less; SARS-CoV-2 is spread by contact with bodily fluids where the virus is present.
In December of 2020, Pfizer/BioNTech administered the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in the hopes to stop the spread of it. Since then, 2 additional variations of the vaccine have been introduced to the public, as well as their prospective boosters. A recent study by Dr. Marsha Rosner and the University of Chicago bioscience team introduced the idea that cannabis could potentially prevent, or drastically reduce, the replicability of the virus. This collective team of molecular biologists, engineers, and specialists in both the fields of cancer biology and chemistry, provided a collaborative perspective of insight to further develop this study. “This was truly a team-science effort, and that’s something that really excites me. From clinicians to David Meltzer’s group who did the patient analysis to virologists like Glenn Randall, and it goes on and on. This is the way science should be carried out.” (Rosner)
Even though it has yet to go full-clinical trial in humans, there is massive support backing further study having shown some success in mice! We’re going to take a closer look at their findings and explore cannabis’ potential to aid in this viral pandemic.
Cannabis and Fighting Covid 19: CBD Just Entered the Ring
Earlier research suggested the potential of utilizing CBD – or cannabidiol – as a possible preventive or treatment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That research supported the need for further clinical testing, which has been met with hesitation by some; alternatives to cannabis that have also shown great potential, did not produce during clinical trials. So, what did the research actually suggest? Well, a highly refined form of CBD was tossed into a test-tube with not only the Covid 19 virus, but a myriad of other cells which allowed for scientists to observe their perspective interactions with one another. CBD didn’t stop the virus from infecting other cells, but instead reacted almost instantaneously as a barrier to prevent the virus from making duplicate copies of itself – this is INCREDIBLE! Comparatively, epiletpic patients that consumed cannabis showed a lesser surge in Covid 19 transmissions. (This progress was also replicated in mice testing.) This particular case study was performed on a limited number of individuals and before it can be utilized as potential aid; it has to undergo clinical trials to provide further supporting evidence of its effectiveness.
Dr. Marsha Rosner, a professor of the graduate Bioscience program at the University of Chicago, performed a case study that showed CBD’s success at blocking SARS-CoV-2 from replicating itself. Their research also indicated that CBD was actively present almost 15 hours after initial exposure to the virus, supporting the plausibility of it becoming effective quickly after the virus enters the cells. Their preclinical trial also indicated that mice who were administered CBD prior to exposure of SARS-CoV-2 had less of the virus in both their lungs and nasal passages. Further research is needed to determine the amount of CBD that is necessary to administer for its full effectiveness against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In conclusion, their research supports the theory that CBD could offer treatment for Covid 19 at the breakthrough of infection, and potentially lower the risk for transmission. Clinical trials are well on their way, but we’re still in the midst of study and implementing experimentation. As Dr. Rosner eloquently put it: “A clinical trial is necessary to determine whether CBD is really effective at preventing or suppressing SARS-CoV-2 infection, but we think this may have potential as a prophylactic treatment…”
It’s important to exercise caution during a viral pandemic and be sure to monitor the CDC for the most up-to-date recommendations on Covid care. CBD is NOT an alternative to the current precautions recommended by the CDC. It’s very important to note that regardless of CBD’s potential to treat positive Covid 19 patients, it is by no means a remedy or an alternative for the guidelines set by the CDC, which are: maintaining a 6ft circumference of distance around yourself and others, and wearing masks while indoors.
A Future of Mild Uncertainty
Patients who have tested positive for Covid 19 can experience mild to moderate symptoms even 6 months after they’ve recovered from it. A study conducted by InCor, the Heart Institute of the São Paulo University Medical School, is in the process of studying the effectiveness of CBD on long-time sufferers of the virus. The condition of prolonged symptoms after recovery is called: Post-Acute Covid 19, or Long Haul Covid Syndrome. Symptoms of this condition are: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, insomnia, and loss of memory retention. Dr. Edimar Bocchi, director of the Heart Failure and Mechanical Devices for Cardiac Insufficiency Nucleus at InCor, is preceding the clinical trial. By this time next year, they hope to be able to prove CBD’s potential effectiveness as a treatment for patients of Long Haul Covid Syndrome. If this clinical trial does prove to be effective, the research team will then advise ANVISA – Brasil’s public health agency – to hopefully move forward in the next phase of the clinical trial process.
CBD and Immunity?
Well, not quite, but we’re getting there! Research is still being conducted – much like the effects of cannabis on Covid 19 – on cannabis and our prospective immune systems. CBD has shown great success as an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant, and immunomodulator. By acting as an anti-inflammatory, CBD can potentially reduce the flow of toxics throughout the body during infection.
Cannabidiol (CBD) also has the potential to mitigate our bodies’ cytokine functionality. (Cytokines are proteins secreted by our immune systems.) These proteins are essential in both the production of white-blood cells and those anti-inflammatory responses we just talked about! This is amazing considering CBD can provide additional building-blocks to create and maintain a better and stronger immune system.
Collective research certainly supports CBD as a potential benefactor to overall wellness, not just in respect to Covid 19! The research currently being conducted by the likes of Dr. Marsha Rosner and Dr. Edmir Bocchi on cannabis’ effectiveness against Covid 19 is exactly what we need to better understand the medicinal value of this remarkable plant – and plenty of research before it has proven CBD’s effectiveness toward boosting our immune system! Check back for more updates as this clinical trial continues to develop.
Reyer, Matt. “Researchers recommend clinical trials for CBD to prevent COVID-19 based on promising animal data” https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/research-and-discoveries-articles/researchers-recommend-clinical-trials-for-cbd 20 January 2022
Vidot DC, Islam JY, Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Harrell MB, Rao DR, Chavez JV, Lucas G Ochoa, Hlaing WM, Weiner M, Messiah SE. “The COVID-19 cannabis health study: Results from an epidemiologic assessment of adults who use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the United States.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32933383/ 15 September 2020
Long Chi Nguyen, et al. “Cannabidiol Inhibits SARS-COV-2 Replication through Induction of the Host ER Stress and Innate Immune Responses.” https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abi6110 20 January 2022
“Guidance for Covid 19” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/guidance.html 15 March 2021