Medicinal cannabis could be a treatment for symptoms of autism, based on tests with 21 children in Chile.

Results from the observational trial, sponsored by ASX-listed Zelda, showed cannabis extracts were more effective than conventional autism medicines.

Zelda (ASX:ZLD) plans to use the same extracts in its own clinical trial.

Zelda’s shares jumped 8 per cent to 8.3c in Monday lunchtime trade, before settling to 8c.

In the study, 71 per cent of cannabis treated patients showed improvement in one symptom and 66.7 per cent showed significant overall improvements.

“The results from this observational study are very exciting and supports the anecdotal evidence we have, showing the positive effect medicinal cannabis has on treating autism symptoms,” chairman Harry Karelis said.

“Zelda will use this baseline data to design its clinical trials and generate rigorous scientific data that validates the clinical benefit of medicinal cannabis.”

Perth-based Zelda is currently awaiting ethics approval to use the extract in a clinical trial for autism, expected in the coming weeks, to complement programs to treat insomnia and eczema.

Chile has become a hot spot for cannabis research after its government granted permission for the first cannabis crop to be planted for medicinal purposes in 2015.

Subsequently, medicinal cannabis has become available in pharmacies.

The company is also conducting a pre-clinical research program look into the effect of cannabinoids in breast, brain and pancreatic cancer and has partnered with CannPal to develop cannabis treatments for pets.

Shares in the company have traded between 2.2c and 14.2c in the past 12 months.

Zelda listed in November last year after a reverse takeover via Gleneage Gold.

The company made a $6.1 million loss last financial year and had $7.8 million left in the bank at the end of June.