Cannabis could be used to help treat potentially deadly complications with COVID-19, a growing body of research suggests.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina performed a trio of studies on mice which found that THC – the chemical that gives cannabis its mind-altering effect – could help prevent a harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
ARDS is one of the most common complications for patients with severe cases of coronavirus. It can be fatal or lead to permanent pulmonary scarring.
The goal of the USC study was to see if THC could block the immune response that leads to ARDS developing by introducing a toxin into the mice that triggers the response.
In dozens of experiments across all three studies, all of the mice that were given THC after the toxin survived, while those that didn’t get the chemical died.
The researchers cautioned that their work is still far from conclusive and stressed that they are not encouraging people to use marijuana to self-medicate for COVID-19.
However, they said the preliminary research showed immense promise of THC as a treatment for severe cases of the virus that has already killed more than 209,000 people in the US and more than one million around the world.
Research from the University of South Carolina suggests that THC – the chemical in cannabis that creates a mind-altering effect – could be used to treat complications in COVID-19 patients
Prakash Nagarkatti, who co-authored the USC studies, explained the research in an interview with The State in August.
‘The underlying mechanism is your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your lungs and all your other organs,’ Nagarkatti said of ARDS.
‘It’s like a car where you’re putting on a lot of accelerator, but the brakes aren’t working. Basically what’s going to happen is your car is going to crash because you can’t stop it. And that’s basically what’s happening with ARDS.’
ARDS is a form of lung failure that occurs when small blood vessels in the lungs begin to leak fluid, blocking air from the bloodstream.
It’s been known to strike in COVID-19 patients when their immune systems go into overdrive to fight the virus and begin attacking healthy cells.
The USC studies found that THC, which stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, helps suppress the body’s immune response while also increasing healthy bacteria in the lungs.
The findings were so promising that the researchers are now looking to begin human trials to further examine the potential effectiveness of the chemical in fighting coronavirus.
But Nagarkatti emphasized that his team’s research in no way advocates for people to use marijuana if they think they have coronavirus.
‘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.’
Meanwhile other studies have…