Meningitis is a condition characterized by inflammation that occurs within the brain’s protective membranes. It’s caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the fluid around the brain and the spinal cord, which causes swelling.
Other possible causes of meningitis include drugs, injuries, various infections, and cancer. Because of the many possible causes of meningitis, there are several names for this condition including bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis, fungal meningitis, parasitic meningitis, and many others. The symptoms can show up within a few days or in as little as a few hours, and it can include fever, confusion, stiff neck, and severe headaches.
Bacterial meningitis can be extremely fatal if diagnosis and antibiotic treatment has been delayed. The longer treatment is delayed, the more it can cause permanent brain damage or even death. This condition has also been associated with other complications such as memory and hearing loss, learning difficulties (especially among children), kidney failure, problems with gait, and shock. According to the World Health Organization, untreated meningitis has a high fatality rate
Depending on the cause of the condition, treatment may vary though it usually includes intravenous antibiotics, corticosteroids, bed rest, and medications to counter the fever and body aches. However, due to the sensitive nature of this condition, the use of other alternative medications such as cannabis can help prevent further complications.
How Cannabis Helps
The human endocannabinoid system is responsible for helping suppress inflammation while improving neuroprotection and immunodilation. Even though there are very few studies documenting the use of cannabis specifically for meningitis, there have been other case studies suggesting that cannabis can be a powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral agent for treating the symptoms of this condition.
There’s a 2021 study, however, conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland together with Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited. They found that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, was effective in treating many different types of bacteria. “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,” explains Dr. Blaskovich, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland.
“Our company is now primed to commercialize viable antimicrobial treatments which we hope will reach more patients in the near future. This is a major breakthrough that the world needs now,” he said. “Those Phase 2a clinical results are expected early this year and we hope that this will pave the way for treatments for gonorrhea, meningitis, and legionnaires disease,” he adds.
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Blaskovich has been involved in other similar studies, and in 2019 he presented the findings of his analysis on CBD for treatment-resistant bacteria. “The first thing we looked at is CBD’s ability to kill bacteria,” Blaskovich says. “In every case, CBD had a very similar potency to that of common antibiotics.” Together with his team, they looked at how CBD worked compared to common antibiotics such has daptomycin and vancomycin. “We looked at how quickly the CBD killed the bacteria. It’s quite fast, within 3 hours, which is pretty good. Vancomycin kills over 6 to 8 hours.”
They also discovered that CBD was effective in breaking the biofilm around bacteria which makes it harder for antibiotics to penetrate and thus kill it off.
In another study, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark led by Janne Kudsk Klitgaard, PhD, showed promising results of CBD treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For the study, they tested Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a major pathogen that causes many types of diseases that cause people to be hospitalized. The researchers believe that combining CBD with antibiotics could be a novel treatment for infections especially for antibiotic-resistant cases. When the bacteria was given a combination of both, they were found to be unable to normally divide.
“Based on these observations, the combination of CBD and BAC is suggested to be a putative novel treatment in clinical settings for treatment of infections with antibiotic-resistant Gram-positive bacteria,” they wrote in their research paper. “With fewer antibiotics available to treat MDR bacterial infections, the possibility of entering a pre-antibiotic era is looming ahead,” they wrote.
Symptoms of Meningitis
Medical marijuana can be used to help alleviate the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of meningitis as well. This is due to its potent neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory properties from THC and as well as CBD. Since meningitis affects the brain and spinal cord, these benefits are important since cannabis can help reduce the potential of further damage, saving people’s lives.
Pain: Patients with meningitis struggle with extreme pain due to inflammation in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The exact way it works to treat pain is unknown although there are several hypothesis, such as the ability of cannabinoids to regulate our pain thresholds by acting on the nociceptors. It also reduces the production of cytokines to minimize the amount of pain we feel while decreasing inflammation, among many others.
Skin rashes: Some cases of meningitis are characterized by skin rashes, another symptom that cannabis can help with. CBD products can be applied topically to the affected area to treat with itching and inflammation, though it can also be taken orally to address inflammation from the inside.
Patients can also take cannabis to help address the depression and anxiety that often comes with this condition.
Given the great risk of fatality and serious brain damage that can occur with meningitis, it’s in the best interest of patients and their loved ones to maximize all the available alternative medications that can work well with conventional treatment.