A team of scientists from Canada’s University of Lethbridge believe that strong strains of cannabis can be used to prevent or treat infection from coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Their research has been published in the online journal Preprints and can be read here.

The paper indicates that some cannabis plants which are high in CBD may affect ACE2, an enzyme which connects to the outer layer of cells in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidney, and intestines and is one the main entry points the virus uses to access the body.

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Speaking to CTV News, Olga Kovalchuk, one of the scientists behind the research, explained: "The virus has the capacity to bind to [ACE2], and pull it into the cell, almost like a doorway.”

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may be useful in modulating the levels of the receptor, which could offer a “plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility”, according to the paper’s abstract.

Olga added of the findings: "We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy."

The scientists noted that more research, including clinical trials, is required to be clear on the validity of their findings. The paper has also not yet been peer reviewed.

Around 400 cannabis strains were looked into, and now 13 which are high in CBD and low in THC, the chemical which produces the cannabis high, have been identified as potentially effective.

The study noted: "They can be used to develop easy-to-use preventative treatments in the form of mouthwash and throat gargle products for both clinical and at-home use."

They are not strains you will find sold at weed dispensaries in North America, and the effects of smoking them has not been tested.

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Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Igor Kovalchuk, fellow researcher and husband of Ogla, said: “Our work could have a huge influence — there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 per cent”.

The University of Lethbridge’s research was conducted in partnership with Pathway RX Inc. and Swysh Inc., pharmaceutical companies focused on custom cannabis treatments. Many of the cannabis strains being researched have been patented and are now licensed to Pathway RX’s partner Sundial Growers Inc.


Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter

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