COVID and Cannabis

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Written by: Zoe Sigman 

(see more work from Zoe here)

Okay. So there's been some misinformation floating around about a new study that just came out of Oregon State University. So let's clear it up. 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is covered in tiny spike proteins. Human cells are covered in receptors that these spikes fit into. There's a teeny tiny part of the spike protein, called the S1 subunit, that's super important for making sure that the virus binds to the cell. And if you block that part of the spike protein, or change its shape, it doesn't bind as well. Meaning the virus won't infect the cell. 

Scientists at OSU decided to see if any cannabinoids bound to the S1 subunit, which would change its shape. They did this by mixing the virus with botanical extracts from hemp and running it through a machine that showed them whether compounds in the mixture bound to the S1 subunit. That would mean those compounds might be useful in preventing the virus from entering human cells.

They found that cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA-A) were the most effective cannabinoids at binding to the S1 subunit.

They then mixed pure CBDA and pure CBGA (separately) with the live virus and two of its most common variants, and found that they prevented the virus from entering human cells.

All of this was done in petri dishes with relatively high concentrations of these cannabinoids. While those concentrations might be achievable through oral consumption of these cannabinoids, more studies need to be conducted first. 

This study is the first step in developing a treatment. The next step is to see if the treatment works in small animals like rodents. If it does, and there's funding, it will move into clinical trials.

At least 95% of drugs that enter clinical trials do not make it to market. There are many, many stages to go before we can say with any certainty that these cannabinoids are an effective preventative treatment for COVID-19. 

So, please, keep wearing your N95s and limiting your contact with other people. Don't get high and expect that to keep you from getting COVID. It probably won't.

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