Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Effect of Cannabidiol Against Enveloped and Nonenveloped Viruses


Agostina B. Marquez, Josefina Vicente, Eliana Castro, Daiana Vota, María S. Rodríguez-Varela, Priscila A. Lanza Castronuovo, Giselle M. Fuentes, Alejandro R. Parise, Leonardo Romorini, Diego E. Alvarez, Carlos A. Bueno, Cristina L. Ramirez, Agustina Alaimo, and Cybele C. García


September 8, 2023


Introduction: Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid of the Cannabis sativa plant, is a powerful antioxidant compound that in recent years has increased interest due to causes effects in a wide range of biological functions. Zika virus (ZIKV) is a virus transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which causes neurological diseases, such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Although the frequency of viral outbreaks has increased recently, no vaccinations or particular chemotherapeutic treatments are available for ZIKV infection.

Objectives: The major aim of this study was to explore the in vitro antiviral activity of CBD against ZIKV, expanding also to other dissimilar viruses.

Materials and Methods: Cell cultures were infected with enveloped and nonenveloped viruses and treated with non-cytotoxic concentrations of CBD and then, viral titers were determined. Additionally, the mechanism of action of the compound during ZIKV in vitro infections was studied. To study the possible immunomodulatory role of CBD, infected and uninfected Huh-7 cells were exposed to 10 μM CBD during 48 h and levels of interleukins 6 and 8 and interferon-beta (IFN-β) expression levels were measured. On the other hand, the effect of CBD on cellular membranes was studied. For this, an immunofluorescence assay was performed, in which cell membranes were labeled with wheat germ agglutinin. Finally, intracellular cholesterol levels were measured.

Results: CBD exhibited a potent antiviral activity against all the tested viruses in different cell lines with half maximal effective concentration values (CE50) ranging from 0.87 to 8.55 μM. Regarding the immunomodulatory effect of CBD during ZIKV in vitro infections, CBD-treated cells exhibited significantly IFN-β increased levels, meanwhile, interleukins 6 and 8 were not induced. Furthermore, it was determined that CBD affects cellular membranes due to the higher fluorescence intensity that was observed in CBD-treated cells and lowers intracellular cholesterol levels, thus affecting the multiplication of ZIKV and other viruses.

Conclusions: It was demonstrated that CBD inhibits structurally dissimilar viruses, suggesting that this phytochemical has broad-spectrum antiviral effect, representing a valuable alternative in emergency situations during viral outbreaks, like the one caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in 2020.

DOI: 10.1089/can.2023.0103


Marquez, A. B., Vicente, J., Castro, E., Vota, D., Rodríguez-Varela, M. S., Lanza Castronuovo, P. A., … & García, C. C. (2023). Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Effect of Cannabidiol Against Enveloped and Nonenveloped Viruses. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.