Exploring the Antibacterial Potential of Semisynthetic Phytocannabinoid: Tetrahydrocannabidiol (THCBD) as a Potential Antibacterial Agent against Sensitive and Resistant Strains of Staphylococcus aureus

ACS Infect Dis. 2024 Jan 12;10(1):64-78. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.3c00154. Epub 2023 Dec 5.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most challenging problems and is responsible for millions of deaths every year. We therefore urgently require new chemical entities with novel mechanisms of action. Phytocannabinoids have been adequately reported for the antimicrobial effect but not seriously pursued because of either stringent regulatory issues or poor drug-like properties. In this regard, the current work demonstrated the antibacterial potential of tetrahydrocannabidiol (THCBD, 4), a semisynthetic phytocannabinoid, against Staphylococcus aureus, the second-most widespread bug recognized by the WHO. THCBD (4) was generated from cannabidiol and subjected to extensive antibacterial screening. In in vitro studies, THCBD (4) demonstrated a potent MIC of 0.25 μg/mL against Gram-positive bacteria, S. aureus ATCC-29213. It is interesting to note that THCBD (4) has demonstrated strong effectiveness against efflux pump-overexpressing (SA-1199B, SA-K2191, SA-K2192, and Mupr-1) and multidrug-resistant (MRSA-15187) S. aureus strains. THCBD (4) has also shown a good effect in kill kinetic assays against ATCC-29213 and MRSA-15187. In the checkerboard assay, THCBD (4) has shown additive/indifference effects with several well-known clinically used antibiotics, tetracycline, mupirocin, penicillin G, and ciprofloxacin. THCBD (4) also exhibited good permeability in the artificial skin model. Most importantly, THCBD (4) has significantly reduced CFU in mice's in vivo skin infection models and also demonstrated decent plasma exposure with 16-17% oral bioavailability. Acute dermal toxicity of THCBD (4) suggests no marked treatment-related impact on gross pathophysiology. This attractive in vitro and in vivo profile of plant-based compounds opens a new direction for new-generation antibiotics and warrants further detailed investigation.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; antibacterial lead; phytocannabinoid; reduction; resistant; tetrahydrocannabidiol.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus*
  • Mice
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents