Consuming medical marijuana in baked goods may be a safer bet than inhaling aerosolized versions of the weed, especially for cancer patients with compromised immune systems, according to a team of researchers from the University of California at Davis.
Medical marijuana is just beginning to find favor as a medical treatment to ease nausea and pain. But a new study published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection suggests the botanical may be rife with infectious bacteria and fungi that can pose life-threatening risks.
The issue was identified after a patient using aerosolized marijuana to treat symptoms from chemotherapy and stem cell therapy died after contracting a rare and incurable lung infection called Mucor. Aerosolized marijuana is an inhaled mist made up of raw, blended marijuana.
Mucor, or mucormycosis, commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air. It can also enter the body through the skin when the fungus enters a cut, scrape or burn.
The team of researchers set out to identify the type of fungi and bacteria in various medical marijuana dispensary samples by conducting DNA analyses. Surprisingly, they found the weed was contaminated with several different families of dangerous fungi, including Aspergillus, Cryptococcus, as well as Mucor. Concerning bacteria found in the plants included Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas putida, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia.
Researchers said the findings should raise concerns among patients and their doctors about using inhaled forms of medical marijuana. However, they added, consuming marijuana in baked goods is a safer bet since the high temperatures would likely kill the pathogens.