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Antidepressants could treat coronavirus, new study suggests

Published on 16/11/20 at 12:41pm
Photo by Benjamin Watson

The antidepressant fluvoxamine could treat COVID-19 patients and stop their symptoms from worsening, according to a new study. 

This research was carried out by the University of Virginia School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Part of this work analysed a clinical trial carried out by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. This came after Dr Alban Gaultier and former graduate student Dr Dorian A Rosen found last year that fluvoxamine may stop the deadly inflammation known as sepsis, in which the immune response spirals out of control.

The trial compared fluvoxamine with a placebo in 152 adult patients who had coronavirus. It found that none of the volunteers who received the drug saw a clinical deterioration after 15 days, while six patients who received the placebo did, with four being hospitalised and one put on a ventilator. While a small sample size, the team believes that it is statistically significant and warrants further investigation in larger trials. 

Eric J Lenze, from the Washington University School of Medicine, said of the results: “The patients who took fluvoxamine did not develop serious breathing difficulties or require hospitalisation for problems with lung function. Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it's also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital. Our study suggests fluvoxamine may help fill that niche.”

There were some notable drawbacks to this research: 20% of the study’s participants stopped answering surveys during the 15-day trial period, and as such the team felt the trial could not be treated as a measure of the drugs effectiveness in treating the virus and it was only an indication that further study was needed. 

Conor Kavanagh

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