Get your antidepressant right with the blood test

In this fast developing world, the changes in daily lifestyle are rapid. Life has become very easy and comfortable, thanks to the various commodities and technological progress. But, as we know every rose has thorns- these modern day innovations have contributed to the rise of some serious challenges, such as global warming, nuclear weapons, cancer, the emergence of new diseases and disorders to name a few. One such challenge which acts like a slow poison and poses a significant threat to people of the modern world is ‘Depression’ The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as “a common but serious mood disorder that affects the ability to feel, think and handling daily activities.” Depression is categorized into various forms, on the basis of circumstances of development –

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Perinatal depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

For the treatment of depression, anti-depressant drugs are the mainstay treatment options. These antidepressants help to improve the efficiency of the brain utilizing certain mood controlling chemicals. Some of the commonly prescribed antidepressants belong to different classes of antidepressants, such as- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants, atypical antidepressants and, selective serotonin and norepinephrine/noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRI).

However, apart from relieving the symptoms of depression and making day to day life livable, these drugs can give rise to various adverse effects. Among these, change in blood pressure is one serious side effect observed more commonly.

The major reason for various side effects is believed to be the lack of knowledge of the more suitable medicine that can help a patient overcome depression. Physicians and specialists have to gamble with a plethora of drugs at their disposal, periodically prescribing and withdrawing according to the changes observed in the patient. The doctors also rely heavily on patient questionnaires to choose a treatment protocol. But, this guessing game of prescribing antidepressants drugs can be overcome by the recent research conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care in March 2017, where the researchers have found a blood test which can measure a certain type of protein level that can be helpful in the treatment of depression. This is a landmark study as this is the first time a blood test has emerged as a quick tool for physicians to arrive at an effective treatment protocol. In the study, the researchers have measured patient’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels through a finger-prick blood test. The idea was derived from one of the new research which showed the strong correlation between CRP level and the prescribed antidepressant. The team is now working on to conduct larger studies to verify CRP’s role with other antidepressants and also to find alternative markers where CRP does not prove effective. This future work is believed to yield tests for other subtypes of depression.

You can read more about the research findings here –

Manish K. Jha, Abu Minhajuddin, Bharathi S. Gadad, Tracy Greer, Bruce Grannemann, Abigail Soyombo, Taryn L. Mayes, A. John Rush, Madhukar H. Trivedi. Can C-reactive protein inform antidepressant medication selection in depressed outpatients? Findings from the CO-MED trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017; 78: 105 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.01.023

– Prabhjot Kour

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