Researchers Look to THC as Potential Coronavirus Treatment

 Researchers Look to THC as Potential Coronavirus Treatment

University of South Carolina Vice President for Research, Prakash Nagarkatti. Photo courtesy of the University of South Carolina

Can THC alleviate the respiratory symptoms associated with coronavirus? Not yet – and possibly never – but a group of researchers in South Carolina see promise after three studies showed THC helped mice fight respiratory illnesses. Now they want to see if they get similar positive results in humans. 

The THC helped the mice combat symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) –  a dangerous immune-system disease that’s also a symptom of many patients hospitalized from coronavirus. ARDS has a more than 40 percent mortality rate, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

The researchers warn that even though these studies on mice give them hope,, the data is preliminary and not intended to prove cannabis is a coronavirus treatment. That can only happen after research on humans.  

“We have been working on cannabinoids for over 20 years and found that cannabinoids such as THC are highly anti-inflammatory,” Prakash Nagarkatti of the University of South Carolina explained in a press release. “Thus, our studies raise the exciting suggestion to test THC against ARDS seen in COVID-19 patients.”

Nagarkatti and Mitzi Nagarkatti, also of the University of South Carolina, have been studying how plant-derived compounds can be used to prevent and reduce inflammation in the body. Their studies on the use of cannabidiol (CBD) lead to the Food and Drug Administration approval of CBD as an orphan drug (a “special status” granted to drugs intended to combat rare diseases) for treating hepatitis. 

The scientists injected mice with a toxin and then THC, or delta-9-hydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis most associated with the “high.” They found that THC effectively battled ARDS. 

Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat ARDS, which these scientists hope to change. Though there’s still a way to go before they can succeed, and that’s why they’re itching to see if humans respond as positively as the mice did. 

Leland Rucker

Leland Rucker

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. He covered the popular music industry for years, worked extensively in internet and cable news, and co-authored The Toy Book, a history of OK Boomer playthiings. Sweet Lunacy, his documentary film co-written and produced with Don Chapman, is a history of the Boulder music scene from the 1950s through the 1980s. He is author and editor of Dimensional Cannabis, the first pop-up book of marijuana.

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