US researchers have found that cannabis compounds have the ability to prevent the virus that causes Covid-19 from entering human cells.
A team from Oregon State University identified Hemp, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa, compounds via a chemical screening technique.
Hemp is a source of fibre, food and animal feed, and multiple hemp extracts and compounds are added to cosmetics, body lotions, dietary supplements and food, said Richard van Breemen, a researcher at varsity.
The team found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people. The findings were published in the Journal of Natural Products.
The compounds are cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA, and the spike protein is the same drug target used in Covid-19 vaccines and antibody therapy. A drug target is any molecule critical to the process a disease follows, meaning its disruption can thwart infection or disease progression.
"These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts," van Breemen said. "They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7 (Alpha), which was first detected in the UK, and variant B.1.351 (Beta), first detected in South Africa."
Lab tests showed that cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by the coronavirus spike protein and prevented entry of SARS-CoV-2 into cells.
"These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans," van Breemen said. "They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products."