This story was first published at nypost.com
By Lee Brown, May 21, 2020: They have high hopes for a coronavirus breakthrough.
A team of Canadian scientists believes it has found strong strains of cannabis that could help prevent or treat coronavirus infections, according to interviews and a study.
Researchers from the University of Lethbridge said a study in April showed at least 13 cannabis plants were high in CBD that appeared to affect the ACE2 pathways that the bug uses to access the body.
“We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy,” one of the researchers, Olga Kovalchuk, told CTV News.
The results, printed in online journal Preprints, indicated hemp extracts high in CBD may help block proteins that provide a “gateway” for COVID-19 to enter host cells.
Kovalchuk’s husband, Igor, suggested cannabis could reduce the virus’ entry points by up to 70 percent. “Therefore, you have more chance to fight it,” he told CTV.
“Our work could have a huge influence — there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 percent,” he told the Calgary Herald.
While they stressed that more research was needed, the study gave hope that the cannabis, if proven to modulate the enzyme, “may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility” as well as “become a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy.”
Cannabis could even be used to “develop easy-to-use preventative treatments in the form of mouthwash and throat gargle products,” the study suggested, with a “potential to decrease viral entry” through the mouth.
“The key thing is not that any cannabis you would pick up at the store will do the trick,” Olga told CTV, with the study suggesting just a handful of more than 800 varieties of sativa seemed to help.
All were high in anti-inflammatory CBD — but low in THC, the part that produces the cannabis high.
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, was carried out in partnership with Pathway Rx, a cannabis therapy research company, and Swysh Inc., a cannabinoid-based research company.
The researchers are seeking funding to continue their efforts to support scientific initiatives to address COVID-19.
“While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is crucial for the future analysis of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19,” the research said.
“Given the current dire and rapidly evolving epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.”