CBD has been shown to kill the bacteria responsible for gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires disease in a discovery which could pave the way for the first new class of antibiotics for resistant bacteria in a generation, according to researchers from the University of Queensland and Botanix Pharmaceuticals.

UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich said CBD can penetrate and kill a wide range of bacteria including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea.

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“This is the first time CBD has been shown to kill some types of Gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria have an extra outer membrane, an additional line of defence that makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate,” he added.

Gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually-transmitted infection in Australia and there is no longer a single reliable antibiotic to treat it because the bacteria has developed resistance.

The study, published in Communications Biology, also showed CBD was effective against a much larger number of Gram-positive bacteria than previously thought, including antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as MRSA or ‘golden staph’.

“This is particularly exciting because there have been no new molecular classes of antibiotics for Gram-negative infections discovered and approved since the 1960s.”

Dr Blaskovich said CBD was particularly good at breaking down biofilms, the slimy build-up of bacteria such as dental plaque on the surface of teeth, which help bacteria like MRSA survive antibiotic treatments.

The team at the Centre for Superbug Solutions mimicked a two-week patient treatment in laboratory models to see how fast the bacteria mutated to try to outwit CBD’s killing power.