CBD could save lives of COVID-19 patients, AU researchers discover

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 1:08 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Cannabidiol, or CBD, seems to help reduce a problem that is killing many patients with COVID-19, Augusta University researchers have found.

More work, including clinical trials to determine optimal dosage and timing, is needed before CBD becomes part of the treatment for COVID-19. 

However, researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia have early evidence it could help patients avoid mechanical ventilation and death from a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The syndrome is a major killer in severe cases of some respiratory viral infections, including coronavirus.

“We have an urgent need for better intervention and treatment strategies,” said Dr. Babak Baban, immunologist and interim associate dean for research at DCG and corresponding author of the study in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Laboratory studies indicate pure CBD can help the lungs recover from the overwhelming inflammation, or cytokine storm, caused by the coronavirus, co-author Dr. Jack Yu, physician-scientist and chief of pediatric plastic surgery at MCG.

A major problem with COVID-19 patients is that instead of just killing the virus, their over-the-top immune response can quickly disable the lungs. Mechanical ventilators can take over vital functions and enable critically ill people to have more energy to fight infection. However evidence suggests 30-50% of patients who get to the point of mechanical ventilation don’t survive.

In studies using mice, oxygen levels went up, while temperatures and cytokine levels went down with CBD therapy. In fact, symptoms as well as physical lung changes from acute respiratory distress syndrome were reversed with CBD treatment, the study showed.

Drs. Jack Yu (left) and Babak Baban of Augusta University.
Drs. Jack Yu (left) and Babak Baban of Augusta University.(WRDW)

At least one way CBD is thought to calm the immune response is that it looks similar to endocannabinoids, a natural cell-signaling system in our bodies believed to be involved in a wide variety of functions from sleep to reproduction to inflammation and immune response.

CBD is available without a prescription and is used to treat problems like seizures as well as Parkinson’s, Crohn’s and other conditions where pain and/or inflammation are major factors. It’s derived from the hemp and cannabis plan.

The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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