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CBD Protects Gut Cells From Toxins Produced by Dangerous Bacteria

Randy Robinson
cannabis, c.difficile, medical cannabis, CBD, THC, cannabinoids, antibiotics, viruses, illnesses, hospitals

New study shows that CBD gives body cells some protection against attack from dangerous bacteria. Could this mean the end for C. difficile?

These days, it seems hospitals are just as likely to kill us as save us. After decades of pummelling bacterial pathogens with antibiotics, these bugs have evolved serious resistance. Since the Industrial Revolution, these medicines have effectively doubled our life span. Not anymore. As we face an antibiotic apocalypse, can cannabis save us from drug resistant, dangerous bacteria? Maybe.

Dangerous Bacteria Lurking in Our Guts, Homes, and Hospitals

One of these resistant bacteria is called C. difficile, and not only has it developed resistance to antibiotics, but it also spreads along common surfaces via nearly indestructible spores.

C. difficile is a nasty one.

The dangerous bacteria excretes two toxins: enterotoxin A and cytotoxin B, which tear up the intestinal lining. Damage to the colon leads to rampant diarrhea, so rampant that C. difficile infections killed 29,000 people in 2011.

hospital hallway that could contain dangerous bacteria

Impervious to Modern Medicine

C. difficile spreads through feces contamination. Even proper cleaning of tabletops and toilets doesn’t always get rid of it because it produces incredibly stable spores that can resist heat and disinfectants.

Worse, C. difficile naturally lives in our digestive systems. It’s not the best microflora competitor, however, so it rarely causes problems for healthy people. Ironically, trouble can arise when combatting other infections; C. difficile infections can arise if the balance of gut bacteria becomes horribly skewed by antibiotic treatments.

Although upping the antibiotics may fight off a C. difficile infection, the drug route doesn’t always work. Some strains of C. difficile have evolved antibiotic resistance. In these rare and extreme cases, the patient may require a complete fecal transplant, an invasive procedure that is prone to failure. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 40 percent of all fecal transplants for C. difficile fail the first time, while another 40 percent will fail the second time.

Nearly half a million people contracted C. difficile in 2011. According to the New York Times, roughly a quarter of all cases began with hospital transmission, while another 40 percent occurred in nursing homes. The elderly and the ill are most likely to suffer from compromised immune systems, making C. difficile a disease of opportunity in some respects.

Cannabis to the Rescue, Again

Cannabis shows promise for treating a broad range of maladies from chronic pain to depression to cancer. Could the miracle plant work for C. difficile infections as well?

Yes. It could.

An experiment in last year’s United European Gastroenterology Journal assessed toxic damage from C. difficile against caco-2 cells, a line of colon cancer cells.

After exposure to CBD, the researchers discovered thatCBD protected the caco-2 cells from enterotoxin A damage, and that the cannabinoid did so through mediation of the CB1 receptor, surprisingly (CBD tends to interact more with CB2 than CB1).

Although this study only showed that CBD could significantly dampen the damage caused by one toxic compound produced by C. difficile, it demonstrated CBD’s powers could specifically target the bacteria. Other studies have shown that CBD exhibits potent anti-inflammatory effects (inflammation being another symptom of C. difficile infection).

Cannabis may also treat irritable bowel syndrome, a mysterious condition that could be caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria. Since cannabis does possess some antibiotic properties, it’s possible that cannabinoid treatments for C. difficile would attack the infection from multiple angles rather than simply counteracting toxicity of a single excreted chemical.

dangerous bacteria in petri dish

Pharmaceutical or Nutraceutical?

Of course, as it goes with every in vitro study and cannabis, take the United European Gastroenterology Study with a grain of salt. The experiment looked at colon cells on plates infected by C. difficile, not in the human gut. But, we do have a significant clue that cannabis could treat this incredibly virulent and dangerous bacteria.  Doctors will still want clinical data – on humans – before recommending cannabis as a treatment.

Cannabis is a possible future treatment against the dangerous bacteria, C. difficile.

Randy Robinson

As someone who wanted to know everything but couldn't decide on anything, Randy completed degrees in English, World History, and Molecular Biology. During their studies, they received an externship at the biotech firm Cannabis Science Inc., focusing on phytocannabinoids as anti-tumor and anti-cancer agents. Based in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, you can find Randy on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium @RanDieselJay

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    Peggy Gallaher

    What dosage? I believe I’ve got recurrent c diff and don’t want antibiotics again if possible.

    October 5, 2019 at 6:13 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Peggy – there are no dosage guidelines at this time. Human trials are not complete.

      October 6, 2019 at 12:03 pm Reply

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