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Cannabis: A Potential Cure Against Coronavirus?

On 11 March, WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The world has since witnessed a global lockdown, surging number of cases, fatalities, and also people above 100 years of age getting treated and cured of the viral disease. Coronavirus is here to stay, just days after New Zealand declared itself corona-free, cases re-emerged! A report suggested that almost 50% of India's population will contract the disease by end of December 2020. With such grim statistics, the hope has been the vaccine developments and medical trials to come up with the antidote. There is another research which is going on.

While there is no proven cure, most Doctors are adhering to symptomatic treatment, i.e, prescribe drugs against symptoms such as fever, cold, etc. Hydroxychloroquine and Anti-HIV drugs are also being used to cure the ones who have contracted the virus. But our focus here is on the research going on Medical Cannabis as one of the potential drug against Coronavirus. It has certainly gained a lot of attention, while the early research shows a lot of promise, it's too early to be considered safe and effective. Let us delve further here.

A study was conducted by researchers from Alberta, Canada. The study was conducted in partnership with Pathway RX and Swysh Inc. and the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. Artificial 3D models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues were used in the study. High CBD Cannabis sativa extracts were found to modulate ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels. The results of the study indicate that hemp extracts high in CBD may help block proteins – the ACE-2 receptors, which have been found as the “entry point” for coronavirus into host cells in the body.

“Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been generally accepted by the scientific community as a receptor required for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells,” Dr Igor Kovalchuk, CEO of Pathway Rx and holder of a Health Canada License for Cannabis Research said. He added, “Our initial findings warrant further investigation but it’s possible that medical cannabis products could become a safe adjunct therapy for the treatment of COVID-19.”

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time that cannabis is being investigated as a treatment strategy for a coronavirus. Earlier research has looked at the drug’s effect on SARS-CoV -the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which caused an outbreak in the year 2003. Researchers from China examined the antiviral properties of cannabis against SARS-CoV in 2007. In 2020, Israeli researchers from The Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus lead a research suggesting that the effects of medical cannabis could be used as a dose for treating the symptoms of serious COVID-19 patients.

Apart from all of the above mentioned researches, Realm of Caring Foundation, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University has been collecting data from cannabis and non-cannabis users for the past four years. The results of this study suggest that cannabis users have a significantly better quality of life. For e.g., improved sleep, less pain, less hospital and ER visits, less seizures, reduced anxiety and depression. Later, the members of the control group who initiated cannabis use after baseline showed a significant health improvement at follow-up.

With current research on cannabis as a COVID-19 prevention strategy still in the very early stages, it will likely be some time before we have a clear answer as to whether these products are safe and effective. The studies going on in Israel have only just been launched with no solid timeline on when the results will be out, and the Canadian researchers are still looking for partners to run clinical trials with their cannabis extracts. It will be many months before we know for sure whether cannabis is a safe and effective remedy against COVID-19. The ongoing studies are definitely promising. The researchers are hopeful that they would find a cure soon, and we all anticipate a global cooperation and collaborative effort to cease the spread of the virus.


Shared by Radhika Kukreja

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