An unlikely saviour in the fight against COVID-19 cause of death?

Cannabinoid medicines could be the key to combating the leading cause of death related to COVID-19 infections, says Melbourne biotechnology company Impressions Healthcare.

The company has commenced animal studies to assess its IHL-675A drug against sepsis-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome (SAARDS). IHL-675A is made up of cannabidiol (CBD) and hydroxychloroquine – historically used to treat malaria.

In many cases COVID-19 causes only mild symptoms. But once patients become critical and need the use of ventilators, SAARDS is the most likely cause of death thereafter. It is also a leading cause of death associated with some lung, urinary tract, stomach and skin infections.

According to Stockhead: “The company says the two compounds in IHL-675A appear to quell the inflammation response to infections generally.

“[But] Impression Healthcare is specifically fighting [acute respiratory distress syndrome] ARDS occurring as a result of sepsis. Sepsis occurs when the body reacts poorly to disease-fighting chemicals being released into the bloodstream.”

The initial trial involves the drug treating rodents with induced sepsis, also known as septic shock or septicaemia, which occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection and produces excessive levels of cytokines.

“Elevated levels of those cells secrete more cytokines, and this ‘cytokine storm’ recruits even more immune cells, fuelling a cascading cycle that eventually damages the host tissues and organs,” according to Impressions Healthcare.

SAARDS is a result of the lungs being damaged by this hyperinflammatory response and is characterised by widespread inflammation of the lungs – known as pneumonia or wet lung – which hampers the body’s ability to oxygenate blood.

IHL-675A may limit the progression of infections to sepsis hyperinflammation caused by the cytokine storm feedback loop, says Small Caps.

Results from stage one of the study are expected in about four to six weeks.

The second stage will investigate the “optimal inflammation dampening response” of the drug as a result of stage one learnings and application of specific combinations of CBD and hydroxychloroquine.

If successful, IHL-675A may qualify for the US Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) approval channel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thereafter, the company intends to conduct in-human testing concurrent with active patient prescription under EUA and Special Access Schemes globally,” Impression Healthcare said.

And, according to the company, the current best treatment for critically ill COVID-19 patients is to use oxygen ventilators to combat acute respiratory distress syndrome, but this does not treat the underlying cause (sepsis).

“There is currently no registered pharmacotherapy (drug) treatment for SAARDS; however the global medical community continues to investigate numerous drug treatments in its search for a new standard of care in response to COVID-19 coronavirus,” Impressions Healthcare said.

Would you ever have imagined cannabis to potentially play such a big role in saving lives during this pandemic?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?
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