Home Pharmacognosy Cannabinoids can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, including variants

Cannabinoids can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, including variants


A new study published in the Natural Products Journal from the American Chemical Society and the American Society of Pharmacognosy has shown that isolated cannabinoids or those contained in hemp extracts have the potential to prevent and treat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS) infection. -CoV-2) – primarily by blocking viral cell entry.

One of the major concerns in the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is the spread of many different viral variants known to successfully evade antibodies against the early lineage of SARS-CoV-2. An additional concern is that currently implemented vaccination strategies rely on the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike glycoprotein of an initially identified SARS-CoV-2 strain.

As a complementary strategy to vaccines, small molecule treatment agents are needed to treat or prevent infections with SARS-CoV-2 and its variant. This is where we can once again look to natural products as one of the most successful sources of medicine and medicine in the history of pharmacology.

For example, we already know that hemp (Cannabis-sativa L.) is used for human and animal food and fiber; in addition, various hemp extracts and compounds have become well accepted additions to dietary and dietary supplements, as well as cosmetics and body lotions.

However, is there also a role for cannabinoids as one of the potential treatment solutions during the current pandemic? This research question was recently addressed by a team of scientists led by Dr. Richard B. van Breemen from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in the United States.

Study: Cannabinoids block cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants. Image Credit: Dmytro Tyshchenko/Shutterstock

Harness the power of magnetic microbeads

In order to find natural ligands to the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (which is essential for viral cell attachment and entry), a magnetic microbead affinity selection screen (MagMASS) was developed with using the spike glycoprotein S1 subunit immobilized on magnetic microbeads. Botanical extracts were then screened with this technique, and hemp extracts (Cannabis-sativa L.) produced several hits.

Therefore, researchers sought to determine whether certain cannabinoids can actually prevent infection by stopping the entry of viral cells in pseudovirus infection tests and live SARS-CoV-2 virus cells. Additionally, denatured S1 subunits of the spike glycoprotein were used as negative controls.

To validate the potential neutralizing abilities of the selected compounds, focus formation assays were performed with the use of authentic SARS-CoV-2 virus (Isolate USA-WA1/2020). For this purpose, Vero E6 cells (derived from African green monkey kidney) were used due to their high sensitivity and ubiquitous use in studies of live SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Stopping SARS-CoV-2 and its variants

Two cannabinoids in this study showed the highest affinities for the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein, namely cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). They successfully blocked the infection of human epithelial cells with a pseudovirus expressing the spike glycoprotein.

An even more significant finding was that CBDA and CBGA from hemp could effectively halt infection with not only the original live SARS-CoV-2, but also variants of concern such as B.1.1.7 (alpha strain) and B.1.351 (beta strain). It should be noted that at the time of these experiments, the omicron strain had still not been identified.

The authors further note that the concentrations necessary to block infection by 50% of viruses are clinically achievable. Bioavailability data (mainly for CBDA) show that micromolar plasma and serum concentrations should be possible, which is necessary for efficacy and safety.

From clinical use to public health benefits

Oral bioavailable cannabinoids identified in this study show promise in preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection. Additionally, the data shows the minimal impact of variant lines on CBDA and CBGA efficacy, which is a favorable trend that may extend to currently existing and potential variants of concern.

“Because we believe that the primary binding site of CBGA is allosteric, there may even be reduced evolutionary pressure for SARS-CoV-2 to mutate its binding sites relative to orthosteric binding sites typically favored by antibodies. neutralizers”, underline the authors of the study.

With heavy use of cannabinoids, resistant variants of SARS-CoV-2 may still surface. Yet the combination of vaccines and CBDA/CBGA treatment may open the door to a more demanding environment where SARS-CoV-2 will have a much reduced possibility of escape.