Chemistry Medical Research

THC & COVID-19: Back at It Again with Evidence

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Written by Lydia Kariuki

The controversies surrounding cannabinoids and their therapeutic potential [1] often see cannabis enthusiasts on the receiving end of the backlash. We do not support cure-it-all generalized claims; rather, we consider it vital to rely on evidence-backed facts. In that spirit, we are back at it again, and this time around it’s about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) against the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

Admittedly, most COVID-19 studies in this area are still in the preliminary phase. Currently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment for COVID-19 consists of an anti-viral drug and several emergency-use antibodies.

Can THC complement or supplement this treatment?

University of South Carolina Research

The University of South Carolina recently published the results of studies that investigated the use of THC in staving off COVID-19-related Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). [2-4] The university researchers conducted three studies that have shown that THC has a significant role to play in fighting COVID-19. The studies have been published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology [2], the International Journal of Molecular Sciences [3], and the British Journal of Pharmacology [4].

ARDS is among the deadly symptoms of COVID-19 and so far contributes to about 4 in every 10 deaths. It may also contribute to long-term scarring of the lung tissue.

Study Methods

These studies were based on mouse models. In this case, mice with toxin-induced ARDS (100% mortality rate) were treated with THC and the results monitored. In all studies, all mice treated with THC recovered fully from the ARDS.

THC suppressed inflammation and cytokine storm by causing apoptosis in immune cells. [2,3] It also showed positive effects in stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria in the lungs, “promoting antimicrobial and anti‐inflammatory pathways.” [4]

ARDS occurs when there is an autoimmune overreaction triggered by the virus. As much as THC was consistently able to demonstrate positive results, sometimes results in mice may not be replicated in humans. Consequently, the researchers recommend further clinical research to confirm these findings.

For now, there is still no known cure for ARDS. Therefore, these discoveries could offer hope for ARDS-afflicted COVID-19 patients.

Should You Consume Regularly to Keep COVID-19 at Bay?

Actually, it’s not that simple. Consuming too much THC before you contract the virus may leave you in a worse condition due to immune suppression. Even so, the authors conclude, “data suggests that THC may be useful in treating ARDS and cytokine storm seen in COVID-19 patients.” [3]

Image Source

Philippa Steinberg for the Innovative Genomics Institute, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

References

  1. Russo E, et al. Current therapeutic cannabis controversies and clinical trial design issues. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2016;7:309. Journal Impact Factor: 4.255; Cited: 57 times (Semantic Scholar)
  2. Mohammed A, Alghetaa H, Sultan M, Singh NP, Nagarkatti P, Nagarkatti M. Administration of Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) post‐staphylococcal enterotoxin B exposure protects mice from acute respiratory distress syndrome and toxicity. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:893. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fphar.2020.00893. Journal Impact Factor: 4.225; Cited: 3 times (Semantic Scholar)
  3. Mohammed A, F.K. Alghetaa H, Miranda K, Wilson K, P. Singh N, Cai G, Putluri N, Nagarkatti P, Nagarkatti M. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol prevents mortality from acute respiratory distress syndrome through the induction of apoptosis in immune cells, leading to cytokine storm suppression. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020; 21(17):6244. Journal Impact Factor: 4.556; Cited: 2 times (Semantic Scholar)
  4. Mohammed A, Alghetaa HK, Zhou J, Chatterjee S, Nagarkatti P, Nagarkatti M. Protective effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol against enterotoxin-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome are mediated by modulation of microbiota. Br J Pharmacol. 2020;177(22):5078-5095. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.15226. Journal Impact Factor: 7.73; Cited: 2 times (Semantic Scholar)

About the author

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Lydia Kariuki

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