A newly developed blood test in the United Kingdom offers a better way to screen patients of depression so that doctors can prescribe the appropriate treatment plan for them.
People suffering from depression often have to go through a process of trial and error in order for their care providers to determine the suitable medication. However, this means that more than half of the antidepressant treatments given to patients don't even work.
Prof. Carmine Pariante and his colleagues at King's College London (KCL) believe that testing the blood of patients can help doctors figure out the right type of treatment that can properly address their condition.
For example, people who test positive for inflammation might need to undergo a more aggressive form of treatment from the outset.
Pariante and his team have already tried their new blood test on 140 patients diagnosed with depression, but they still need to carry out a larger trial so that they can gauge if they'll be able to use the diagnostic in real world settings.
The new blood test focuses on two inflammation markers, which could be used to determine the degree of depression in patients. These two markers are the compounds interleukin-1beta and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF).
According to the researchers' findings, patients who have high levels of these two compounds won't be able to respond well to commonly prescribed antidepressant treatments such as tricyclic and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Pariante said identifying the levels of interleukin-1beta and MIF in the blood would allow doctors to tailor a more effective treatment depending on the needs of the patient.
He added that about one-third of depression patients are likely to show these inflammatory markers in their blood, making them primary candidates for more aggressive antidepressant treatment.
However, while antidepressants have been proven safe to use, they still produce adverse effects in certain individuals.
"We would not want to go in prescribing too much medicine if it's not necessary, but we would want to escalate people sooner rather than later if they need it," Pariante said.
He added that having inflammations could be the body's way of responding to various stress. However, these conditions tend to prevent drug treatments, such as antidepressants, from doing their job.
The researchers are now planning to conduct tests to find out if giving patients anti-inflammatory medications along with their antidepressant treatments would work better.
The findings of the KCL study were published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology on May 11.