Marijuana’s chemical compound THC can weaken most common strain of HIV virus

In Feature Stories, HIV, Research Updates and News by Chris Hogg

Preliminary research revealed THC can weaken HIV-1 infection, a new report published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology explains.

A synthetic version of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, was developed to attack the HIV-1 virus, which represents the vast majority (more than 90 percent) of all HIV types.

Researchers found compounds that stimulate the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor in white blood cells, specifically macrophages, appear to weaken HIV-1.

“The synthetic compounds we used in our study may show promise in helping the body fight HIV-1 infection,'” said Yuri Persidsky, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. “As
compounds like these are improved further and made widely available, we will continue to explore their potential to fight other viral diseases that are notoriously difficult to treat.”

Stopping the HIV virus from infecting macrophages is one way researchers are investigating HIV treatment, because it would slow the speed at which the infection grows and would give time for other antiretrovirals to help keep it at bay, or even remove it.

“HIV/AIDS has posed one of the most significant health challenges in modern medicine,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Recent high profile vaccine failures mean that all options need to be on the table to prevent or treat this devastating infection. Research on the role of cannabinoid type 2 receptors and viral infection may one day allow targeting these receptors to be part of combination therapies that use exploit multiple weaknesses of the virus simultaneously.”

Photo courtesy NIAID