WASHINGTON (TEGNA) – Viral headlines and social media posts talked about a new study showing marijuana could prevent COVID-19.
Which, in turn, led to online conversations about weed treating or curing the coronavirus.
There is a real study at the heart of these claims, but there are problems with how it’s being represented.
Keep in mind, studies aren’t meant to determine facts. Scientific research is about testing a theory and using the findings to build evidence.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for articles to take the results of these studies and twist their findings behind spicier headlines.
Did a Canadian study find that marijuana could “prevent COVID-19?”
No. The real study did find that certain cannabis extracts could potentially lower the number of cells that the virus could attach itself too, but it only dealt with CBD extracts used in medical applications – not any sort of recreational marijuana use.
WHAT WE FOUND:
In a study titled: “In Search of Preventative Strategies: Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues,” researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Canada applied several strains of CBD to cells to see if it changed their ability to be infected by the COVID-19 virus.
They found 13 strains that showed promising results. The cannabis extracts were able to lower the expression of a gene in human cells that created a protein which SARS-COV2 could latch on to.
The team tested about 25 strains of cannabis and “13 lines were actually specifically active in the way that we were hoping,” researcher Olka Kovalchuk told VERIFY.
Kovalchuk is a professor at the University of Lethbridge and also the co-founder and chief science officer of Pathway Research, the lab that put together this study.
She told VERIFY that the results of their study are promising, but shouldn’t be taken as fact.
“We do know 13 strains of extract that do what we think they’re supposed to do, but they will have to be tested more,” she said. “I don’t want people to jump and say ‘oh yeah, let’s just go grab anything and have this false sense of protection,’ No. This is a first stepping stone to a trial that will be very important to prove it.”
Kovalchuk pointed out that their study only dealt with certain cannabis extracts in a medical setting. This study didn’t look into recreational marijuana and even states that “these results cannot be extrapolated to the effects of cannabis smoking.”
“As scientists, what we try to do is try to contribute into this general pool of knowledge as to how to deal with this beast [COVID-19],” she said. “These data are enough for us to start planning a clinical trial. We would actually really like to run a full trial to see whether or not, for example, using these extracts in the form of a mouthwash, will, in the long run, lower the infection rate in a group.”
The study found promising results that certain CBD strains could lower the number of cells that the virus can infect. The researchers think this should be seen as reason for further research, not taken as fact.
This study has nothing to do with the recreational use of marijuana – and shouldn’t be an excuse for people to smoke it.
A less-entertaining headline might read that: A Canadian study found certain CBD strains could lower the chances of COVID infection – but more research is needed.
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