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Finger-prick blood test could help with depression medication

Published on 03/04/17 at 10:40am

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have found that simple finger-prick blood test could reveal the most effective form of antidepressant medication for patients. The test measures a certain protein in the patient’s blood to determine whether an antidepressant is capable of improving symptoms.

The type of protein the test examines the blood for is the level of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that is associated with inflammation and bacterial infections. The research tested patients with two types of antidepressants: escitalopram and buproprion. The patients received either escitalopram alone or in combination with buproprion.

The results found that patients who exhibited CRP levels of less than 1 milligram per litre, treatment with escitalopram alone was more effective – with a 57% remission rate, compared to 30% of patients on both drugs. However, in those patients that had high levels of CRP, the combination treatment was the most effective – with 51% remission rate compared to 33% of patients on escitalopram alone.

"Currently, our selection of depression medications is not any more superior than flipping a coin, and yet that is what we do. Now we have a biological explanation to guide treatment of depression," said Dr. Trivedi, Director of the depression center, of UT Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.

"These findings provide evidence that a biological test can immediately be used in clinical practice," he continued.

The findings of the research may help to determine which antidepressants to prescribe to patients; the next stage will be to scale up the experiment to verify that the findings remain consistent with a larger pool of patients. Another part of further research will be to identify other potential markers that can also be tested for as part of determining the most effective antidepressant treatment. In the future, this may mean a blood test before the physician determines the appropriate type of treatment.

Ben Hargreaves

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