A medication used to treat inflammation may offer new hope for people with difficult-to-treat depression, say researchers at Emory University. Their study into the anti-depressant effects of infliximab appears in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
"Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection or wounding," explained Andrew H. Miller, senior author for the study. "However, prolonged or excessive inflammation can damage many parts of the body - including the brain."
Infliximab is one of the new biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis). A biologic drug copies the effects of substances naturally made by the body's immune system. Infliximab blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a key molecule in inflammation that has been shown to be elevated in some depressed individuals.
The participants in the study all had major depression and were moderately resistant to conventional antidepressant treatment. Each participant was assigned either to infliximab or a placebo treatment.
When investigators looked at the results for the group as a whole, no significant differences were found in the improvement of depression symptoms between the drug and placebo groups. However, when the subjects with high inflammation were examined separately, they exhibited a much better response to infliximab than to placebo.
"This is the first successful application of a biologic therapy to depression," said study co-author Charles L. Raison. "The study opens the door to a host of new approaches that target the immune system to treat psychiatric diseases."
Discuss this article in our forum
Food flavors examined for effects on mood
New evidence linking biological mechanisms behind depression
Milk fats behind inflammatory bowel diseases?
Source: Emory University