While smoking weed definitely won't make you coronavirus-proof, Canadian scientists at the University of Lethbridge have some promising results that might be counted as preliminary evidence that cannabis may block COVID-19 infection.
The study's aim was to find ways to hinder the COVID-19 from finding a host in the lungs, intestines, and oral cavity.
The researchers have studied over 400 cannabis strains, and now, they are concentrating on about a dozen they say have the most potential to help prevent the virus.
CBD performed the best
In order to conduct to study, the researchers developed over 400 new cannabis Sativa lines and extracts. The end-strains were high in anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) since the compound has been proposed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
By using artificial human 3-D tissue models, they simulated and mapped out how each strain may impact COVID-19 infections in the human oral, airway, and intestinal tissues. Particularly, they monitored each strain's ability to modulate ACE2 levels, an enzyme previously linked to COVID-19 infection.
The lead researcher, biological scientist Dr. Igor Kovalchuk stated some strains showed promising results in ensuring less fertile ground for the virus to take root.
Some reduced the virus receptors by 73%
According to Kovalchuk, "A number of them have reduced the number of these (virus) receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower. If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.”
Moreover, the researchers were able to identify 13 CBD extracts that are able to change ACE2 levels. The data suggested that some strains were also able to down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, which is another protein critical for COVID-19 to enter host cells and spread throughout the body.
Yet to be peer-reviewed
So yes, while the findings are promising they are yet to be peer-reviewed. The results cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of cannabis’s ability to treat the virus since the researchers haven't been able to identify what the ideal ratio is of THC to CBD, or even if the active ingredient is CBD or some other component or combination.
If peer-reviewed and more research is done on the subject, the study could be actually practiced in the form of mouth wash, gargle, inhalants, or gel caps, according to Kovalchuk.