THC chemical in cannabis could help prevent and treat deadly COVID-19 complications

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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is one of the main causes of death for COVID-19 patients. This is sudden respiratory distress in which patients’ lungs fill with fluid instead of oxygen [1]. ARDS has been historically difficult to treat, however, researchers have recently found a connection between THC and COVID-19 that could possibly have life-saving implications.

THC and COVID-19

Scientists at the University of South Carolina recently published a paper in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggesting that THC may be a possible treatment for COVID-19. More specifically, they found that Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol has a protective effect against ARDS.

The research came from Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti and Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti at the University of South Carolina (UofSC) School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology. Both doctors have been studying how plant-derived compounds can prevent and reduce inflammation throughout the body for years [2].

To perform the study, the researchers injected mice with Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB). This toxin triggers ARDS. They then administered THC to some of the mice. Not only did the THC suppress SEB-induced inflammation, but it also improved the pulmonary function of the lung. Additionally, the THC played a role in recruiting suppressor cells to the site of inflammation to control the immune response [3].

“Acute respiratory distress syndrome is triggered by a variety of etiologic agents. Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat ARDS because of which the mortality rate is close to 40 percent. Our studies suggest that THC is highly effective to treat ARDS and thus, clinical trials are critical to investigate if this works,” said Mitzi Nagarkatti [2].

She added that ARDS is a common cause of death for COVID-19 patients, but as of yet, there is no treatment for it.

“We have been working on cannabinoids for over 20 years and found that cannabinoids such as THC are highly anti-inflammatory. Thus, our studies raise the exciting suggestion to test THC against ARDS seen in COVID-19 patients,” said Prakash Nagarkatti [2].

Read: What Cannabis Does To Your Mind & Body Depending On How You Ingest It (Infographic)

Scientists: Smoking Won’t Cure COVID-19

This research is very promising, but since the scientists have not yet performed any human trials, we do not know how it will work in humans. The treatment was so effective in mice (one hundred percent of them survived) that the researchers are recommending officials begin human trials right away.

That being said, both doctors are quick to warn people that they shouldn’t smoke marijuana if they think they have the coronavirus. Because THC can suppress the immune system, it can actually make you more susceptible to infection.

I just want to make sure our research is not interpreted as marijuana is good for COVID 19,Nagarkatti said “If you start using THC early on it might worsen the effect because it suppresses the immune system.” [4

Nonetheless, the connection between THC and ARDS, and thus that between THC and COVID-19, appear to be very strong. To be clear, that does not mean that it will cure COVID-19. It may, however, prevent people from dying from ARDS, which is a complication of the virus.

If the doctors receive approval for human trials, we may finally have a viable treatment for ARDS. The mortality rate of ARDS is up to fifty percent, which means THC may actually save thousands of lives [5].

Related: Cannabis shows promise blocking coronavirus infection, claims Canadian researcher

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