SEP 30, 2016 11:30 AM PDT

Blood Test Guides Depression Treatments

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
When the mind isn’t doing well, doctors can find clues in the body. In particular, scientists in the UK recently found that people with depression have different inflammation profiles that can be picked up with a simple blood test. In addition to helping to diagnose patients, the team says the inflammation biomarkers can help predict which drugs will be most effective for certain patients. This would, in essence, help reduce the trial and error that often plagues depression patients.

Emerging depression treatments guided by blood test | Image: pixabay.com
 
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US. In 2014, nearly 15.7 million Americans experienced at least one major depressive episode. And because depression often goes undiagnosed, this number could be even higher.
 
Currently, a popular treatment for depression option is with pharmacotherapy – using antidepressants to reduce mood symptoms. There are many classes of antidepressants, each targeting different neurotransmitters associated with depression. Though there are many options for which antidepressants patients can take, getting the right drug for the right patient is a challenge.
 
"If [patients] don't get better, they just switch drugs and then switch again with hope that one will work," said Carmine Pariante, professor at Kings College London and senior author of the study.
 
Researchers have long known that stress influences inflammation markers, and this is no different with depression. To test whether a blood test can reveal these markers, scientists at the King's College London tested blood samples from 140 people with depression.
 
The team honed in on 2 biological markers: MIF (migration inhibitory factor) and IL-1B (interleukin-1beta). They found that about one-third of their cohort have high levels of these 2 markers. Interestingly, these same patients were also less likely to respond to SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and tricyclic antidepressants – two of the most common, first-line drugs doctors typically prescribe.
 

"We determined with 100% accuracy when patients will not respond to these first-line drugs," Pariante said. "This one-third need a more complex intervention."

The blood test could theoretically distinguish these patients and doctors can prescribe an alternative antidepressant class from the start. "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,” said Pariante. This would bypass side-effects from antidepressants that would not appear to be outweighed by any benefits for the patients.
 
"Being able to target those people with depression who don't respond to medication would be one of the most exciting steps forward in the treatment of mental illness for decades,” said Marjorie Wallace from the mental health charity SANE.

Additional sources: CNN, BBC
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JAN 08, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 08, 2020
MicroRNA emerges as a biomarker for migraines
Intense, debilitating pain that can last for days. Nausea, numbness and sensitivity to light. For people who experience ...
MAR 12, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAR 12, 2020
Molecular biomarker in saliva predicts childhood obesity
Epigenetic changes modify how genes are switched on and off, without altering DNA’s genetic code sequence. These e ...
MAR 24, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAR 24, 2020
Ultra sensitive cancer diagnostic detects DNA "fingerprints" in liquid biopsies
  Researchers from the Broad and Dana-Farber Cancer Institutes have developed a diagnostic technology that can moni ...
MAY 12, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 12, 2020
Could Catching the Flu Be Linked to an Increased Cancer Risk?
Results from a new research study suggest that a spike in infections such as influenza could be linked to the risk of de ...
MAY 19, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 19, 2020
Hormone Levels in Infants Linked to Autism
  A potential biomarker for autism has been identified in infants: the levels of a hormone called vasopressin found ...
MAY 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 21, 2020
Taking the Guesswork out of Fat Consumption
  When it comes to healthy eating, we often receive mixed messages. Low fat diets that have been popularized for de ...
Loading Comments...