Fungal, Bacterial Contaminants Found in Some Medical Marijuana

FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

Unsafe fungal and bacterial contaminants have been detected in some sources of medical marijuana, according to a report from UC Davis. The report’s researchers warned that immunocompromised patients who smoke, vape, or inhale aerosolized marijuana may be at risk of serious or fatal infections.
The researchers used genomic techniques to measure the presence of bacteria and fungi in 20 marijuana samples from Northern California dispensaries. They discovered a diversity of microorganisms, such as Cryptococcus, Mucor, and Aspergillus fungi, and Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria.
“Infection with the pathogens we found in medical marijuana could lead to serious illness and even death,” Joseph Tuscano, a professor of internal medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UC Davis, said in a news release. “Inhaling marijuana in any form provides a direct portal of entry deep into the lungs where infection can easily take hold.”
Patients who require immune-suppressing therapies often make up the demographic of medical marijuana users, for controlling nausea and pain, and stimulating appetites. The researchers noted that the legality of medical cannabis leads patients to believe that the substances are required to meet standard safety quality, even though it is not federally regulated.
Additionally, Tuscano noted that unusual lung infections may be attributed to hospital or community exposure, and patients and physicians rarely consider marijuana as the cause. The researchers concluded that, although it is not scientific-based evidence, consumption of baked marijuana goods may be a safer alternative for patients.
The researchers plan on conducting further studies relating to medical marijuana use.
UC Davis study finds mold, bacterial contaminants in medical marijuana samples [news release]. Sacramento. UC Davis’ website. . Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.