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Experimental blood test could help treat depression

As reported in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists in the United Kingdom have developed an experimental blood test that could help psychiatrists select more-effective drugs for patients suffering from depression.
WebMD Depression Spiral

Effects of Inflammation

Psychiatrists currently have relatively little physiological data on which to base their initial prescription of antidepressants, and are often forced to rely on trial and error. In contrast, the new blood test helps to identify patients who are prone to high levels of inflammation, which can interfere with the biological processes that are crucial for many antidepressants (e.g., commonly prescribed SSRI and tricyclic antidepressants) to work. For those patients prone to high levels of inflammation, alternate antidepressants may be prescribed. Additionally, researchers are testing the effects of administering anti-inflammatory drugs in conjunction with antidepressants to those patients.

The experimental blood test detects two specific biomarkers of inflammation: (i) macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and (ii) interleukin-1beta. Initial trials with 140 test subjects have strongly supported an inverse correlation between the presence of these biomarkers and the effectiveness of conventional antidepressants.

Additional Treatment

Of course, medication is not the only way to managing depression. Different people will have different needs, and the best treatment may comprise medication, talking therapies, or some combination thereof.

Depression is a common mental disorder. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “[g]lobally an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.” Moreover, “[d]epression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”

Unfortunately, despite being such a common illness worldwide, depression is only treated in less than than half of those affected, often due to lack of resources (medicine and trained healthcare professionals) as well as a social stigma associated with mental disorders.

Depression Treatment in China

There is strong evidence suggesting that the rate of depression in China is on the rise. That said, awareness of the disorder, and the availability of treatment, is also on the rise.

A 2012 report by market research firm Research and Markets indicated that China may be home to more than 30 million depression patients. The report also indicated that the country’s antidepressant market was growing rapidly in terms of both total sales volume and proportion of total Chinese pharmaceutical sales.

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