“A number of them have reduced the number of these (virus) receptors by 73 per cent, the chance of it getting in is much lower,” said Kovalchuk.
“If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.”
Employing cannabis sativa strains over the past three months, the researcher said the effective balance between cannabis components THC and CBD — the latter more typically associated with medical use — is still unclear in blocking the novel coronavirus.
“We focus more on the higher CBD because people can take higher doses and not be impaired,” said Kovalchuk.
The study under Health Canada licence using artificial human 3-D tissue models has been seeking ways to hinder the highly contagious novel coronavirus from finding a host in the lungs, intestines, and oral cavity.
But the absence of clinical trials remains a barrier, and funding from an increasingly cash-strapped cannabis industry isn’t there to fuel that, said Kovalchuk.
“We have clinicians who are willing to work with us but for a lot of companies in the cannabis business, it’s significant cash that they can’t afford,” he said.
The scientist emphasized the findings wouldn’t lead to a vaccine — something “less specific and precise” but nonetheless another possible weapon against COVID-19.
Israeli researchers have begun clinical trials of CBD as a treatment to repair cells damaged by COVID-19 by using its anti-inflammatory abilities.
It’s thought CBD could enhance the traditional effect of steroids in such treatment of patients in life-threatening condition and also bolster the immune system.
It’s the kind of research and his own that deserves government support in Canada, whose federal government has pledged $1.1 billion in funding for COVID-19 research said the U of L scientist.
“Our work could have a huge influence — there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 per cent,” he said.