Researchers Tackle MRSA Using Cannabis Extracts

Marijuana has long been associated with having potent anti-bacterial properties, but paradoxically, marijuana abuse has been associated with an increase in opportunistic infection. According to a new study, published August 6, 2008 in the Journal of Natural Products, cannabis has powerful antibiotic properties against several forms of MRSA strains, “of clinical relevance.”

In the 1950’s, topical preparations from cannabis sativa were explored for treating skin and mouth infections and for tuberculosis treatment. Recent research shows that both psychotropic (THC) forms, as well non-psychotropic forms of cannabis might be used as antibiotic. The current researchers isolated THC, CBD, and CBG from three strains of cannabis sativa to produce a single major cannabinoid. Powder was extracted from the plant, heated, and the active ingredients were then extracted and purified. The researchers then used MRSA cultures to test the effectiveness of the purified cannabis extracts - “All compounds showed potent antibacterial activity, and the researchers saw “potent activity demonstrated against EMRSA-15 and EMRSA-16, the major epidemic methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains occurring in U.K. hospitals.”

MRSA is not the only bacterium that has become drug-resistant. Concerns about extremely drug resistant strains of tuberculosis have also recently been in the spotlight. According to the current research authors, “plants are still a substantially untapped source of antimicrobial agents”, as “only one new class of antibacterial has been introduced in the last 30 years, … making C. sativa a potential source of compounds to address antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent issues in antimicrobial therapy.”

Large-scale studies are still needed, but the researchers write, “Given the availability of C. sativa strains producing high concentrations of nonpsychotropic cannabinoids, this plant represents an interesting source of antibacterial agents to address the problem of multidrug resistance in MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria. Furthermore, “Although the use of cannabinoids as systemic antibacterial agents awaits rigorous clinical trials and an assessment of the extent of their inactivation by serum, their topical application to reduce skin colonization by MRSA seems promising, since MRSA resistant to mupirocin, the standard antibiotic for this indication, are being detected at a threatening rate. … semipurified mixtures of cannabinoids could also be used as cheap and biodegradable antibacterial agents for cosmetics and toiletries, providing an alternative to the substantially much less potent synthetic preservatives, many of which are currently questioned for their suboptimal safety and environmental profile.”

J. Nat. Prod., 71 (8), 1427–1430, 2008. 10.1021/np8002673