Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming, antibiotics have saved millions of lives from fatal infections world-wide.
However, with time bacteria have developed mechanisms to escape the effects of antibiotics—they have become resistant.
With fewer antibiotics available to treat resistant bacterial infections, the possibility of entering a pre-antibiotic era is looming ahead.
Alternative strategies are being explored and helper compounds are attracting attention. Helper compounds are non-antibiotic compounds with the capability of enhancing the efficacy of antibiotics.
In a new study, researchers found that one such helper compound has been suspected to be cannabidiol (CBD); a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Southern Denmark.
In the study, CBD was used to enhance the effect of the antibiotic bacitracin against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria; a major human pathogen that frequently causes community- and hospital-acquired disease.
Multidrug-resistant clones of this pathogen have spread globally.
In some countries, treatment of bacterial infections with these resistant bacteria is difficult and the problem is projected to be an ever-larger problem in the future.
According to the researchers, the combination of CBD and antibiotics may be a novel treatment of infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The team found three things happened with the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria when they treated them with the combination in their study:
The bacteria could no longer divide normally.
The expression of certain key genes (cell division and autolysis genes) in the bacteria was lowered.
The bacterial membrane became unstable.
The team says the overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of antibiotic resistance.
If doctors combine an antibiotic with a helper compound, that enhances the effect of the antibiotic, they need fewer antibiotics to achieve the same effect.
This may contribute to the development of fewer resistant bacteria.
The lead author of the study is Janne Kudsk Klitgaard.
The study is published in Scientific Reports.
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