TEL AVIV – An Israeli hospital will begin testing COVID-19 patients with medicinal cannabis, which is known to have anti-viral properties, as part of a new experimental treatment.
Researchers are investigating cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis also known as CBD, can slow down the spread of the virus and stop moderate patients from turning critical.
Dozens of COVID-19 patients in moderate condition at Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv are expected to be treated.
Barak Cohen, a senior anesthesiologist who is in charge of managing the hospital’s coronavirus response, stressed the treatment would alleviate symptoms by using “a component of the cannabis plant that is considered safe and non-addictive.”
Separately, researchers at Tel Aviv University have begun developing a CBD-based drug that has been shown to be effective against inflammation for coronavirus-infected lung cells.
The Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa is also working to develop two complementary drugs based on various cannabis strains to fight the virus. The first will attempt to reduce the patient’s immune response while the second aims to slow down the course of the disease by lowering the expression of the receptor, a protein that allows the virus to receive and release substances outside of the cell.
“Our lab has been approved to operate as a coronavirus lab, and we are currently promoting two studies based on existing cannabis studies,” Prof. Dudi Meiri, who is leading the Technion’s team, told Calcalist.
“First, we will try to identify the plant’s immune cells that are capable of suppressing the immune response to the coronavirus, which causes inflammation and disease. Cannabis plant molecules have the ability to lower the immune system response without suppressing it entirely, thereby providing better complementary treatment than steroids, which completely suppress the immune system.”
The second study Meiri will be conducted on the receptor which allows the virus to inject its genetic expression into human cells and proliferate.
“There is a process that examines the effect of cannabis molecules on proteins as well,” he explained. “We are now examining which ones are relevant to the same receptor, with the goal of lowering its expression, making it difficult for the virus to enter the cell and proliferate.”