New research suggests cannabis extracts may lower the risk of dying from Covid.
The research found that the extracts prevent a patient’s malfunctioning immune system from attacking itself.
The attack is called a ‘cytokine storm’. It happens when the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy tissues instead of thwarting the virus.
It’s this reaction that is often fatal for Covid patients. Doctors have been working hard to find a way to tackle it.
Researchers at the University of Lethbridge looked into how cannabis extracts from sativa plants work with cytokines.
During their research, they discovered three strains that help to reduce levels of two of the chemicals that are present in the cytokine storm. The strains are referred to as numbers four, eight and fourteen.
More than 200 different variants of cannabis are kept by the researchers.
This number was narrowed down to seven for their study. It hasn’t yet been peer reviewed and has been published on Research Square.
Dr Olga Kovalchuk is the co-author of the study: ‘In this study, we identified three extracts that are very, very good strains; some strains identified in previous studies were also pretty good,’ says
The cytokine storm can continue even when the Covid-19 virus has left the body. The response often leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), this is what can be fatal.
If not fatal, the patient can be left with lung fibrosis. This means the lung tissue is damaged and scarred. A lung transplant is the only cure for these patients.
‘When we started reading up in the literature on what drives ARDS, it’s very clear that it’s driven by the same molecules that are implicated in a lot of autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases,’ sayd Dr Kovalchuk.
‘One of them is interleukin-6 (IL-6) and the other is called tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a).’
Researchers used a ‘3D human skin tissue model’, which responds in the same was as the human body.
Professionally cultivated cannabis plants were used, which were carefully extracted. Researchers say their findings don’t suggest that smoking marijuana or using CBD oil will offer any protection against Covid-19.
The researchers next to test these cannabis-based treatments in clinical trials to see if they are effective.
More Good News
It’s the second wave of good news with regards to preventing cytokine storms. Earlier this month researchers found that two anti-inflammatory drugs already used to treat arthritis are effective at stopping the reaction.
Scientists found the drugs can boost the survival odds for patients already taking dexamethasone This is a steroid which British scientists discovered could reduce death most severely ill patients.
Matt Hancock said the discovery as ‘yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic’.
The drugs, marketed under the brand name Actemra and Kevzara, are administered via an intravenous drip for an hour.
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