World Bulletin / News Desk
British scientists have identified biological markers in the blood which should help doctors match patients to the best type of treatment for depression.
The aim is to end the "trial and error" prescription of antidepressants, which is often the only way depressed patients can find the most effective treatment, said researchers regarding what they described as a small but promising study.
"The study shows that we could use a blood-based "test" to personalise the treatment of depression," said Carmine Pariante of King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, who led the study. She and colleagues found that high levels of inflammation - which show up in biological markers in the blood - are part of the mechanism leading to depression, especially to particular forms of the condition that do not respond well to mild or low-dose antidepressants.
"If a patient had high levels of inflammation, they could immediately begin with a more intensive treatment programme, such as combining antidepressants or stepping up the doses," Pariante said.
A MAJOR PROBLEM
Major depression affects around 20 percent of people at some point in their lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO)predicts that by 2020, depression will rival heart disease as the health disorder with the highest global disease burden.
While there are many antidepressants on the market, including top sellers such as Prozac and Seroxat, it is widely accepted that many antidepressants work in only half of patients half of the time, and drugmakers are struggling to come up with a new generation of drugs in this field.
In the study published on Wednesday in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Pariante's team set out to try to identify two types of biomarkers - ones which could predict future response to antidepressants, called predictors, and others which are targeted by antidepressants and change over the course of treatment, called targets.
The researchers explained that in human cells, information from genes is transcribed into so-called messenger RNA, or mRNA, before it becomes visible as a physical or biochemical sign. So the team monitored the patients' mRNA before and after they were treated with one of two antidepressants - escitalopram or nortriptyline.
Escitalopram, sold under various brand names including Lexapro, Seroplex, Cipralex and made by generic drugmakers, is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Nortriptyline, sold under the brand names Sensoval, Aventyl and others, is an older type of antidepressant known as a tricyclic. They are both commonly prescribed as first line antidepressant treatments in Britain and other countries.
After 8 weeks of treatment, the researchers found that patients who were not getting any better were ones who had significantly higher levels of three inflammation markers before treatment started.
This suggests these three signals could be used to find patients who are least likely to respond to antidepressants, allowing doctors to consider a more tailored or "personalised" approach to treatment from the start, the researchers said.
"This is a small study, but the findings are promising," they said in a statement. "Personalised treatments for depression could help us avoid the current 'trial and error' way of prescribing antidepressant medication."
WHO said that on many levels, the world is better prepared now than ever before for aflu pandemic
Myanmar health officals say an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Mandalay
Tokyo Electric said it has been aware since last spring that radiation levels in water running in one of the plant gutters rise when it rains
Safe drinking water is available at about one-third of the level it was before the conflict erupted nearly five years ago, and supplies are cut-off to punish civilians at times
Elephants in Angola, which suffered decades of civil war, have been observed avoiding heavily-mined areas, suggesting their trunks were warning them to stay away.
Favipiravir halved death rate among some to 15 pct, but WHO says more research required on drug
The first medicine containing stem cells to treat a rare condition caused by burns to the eye has approved.
940 parasite samplescollected at 55 malaria treatment centres across Myanmar and its border regions. They found that almost 40 percent of the samples had mutations in their so-called kelch gene, K13 -- a known genetic signal of artemisinin drug resistance.
Yaws is known to be prevalent in 12 countries in areas where people have little access to healthcare, mainly in West and Central Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.
In the past few years, Nepal has seen the numbers of endangered species, such as the Royal Bengal tiger or the one-horned rhino, rise.
The investment would represent as little as 0.1 percent of current national health spending of the low and middle-income countries affected by NTD.
Nearly 1,000 abandoned California sea lions have washed ashore this year in what rehabilitation centers say is a growing crisis for the animals.
West Africa cases of Ebola show the first decrease in three weeks.
"Marijuana fools the brain's feeding system."scientist Tamas Horvath said.
The Department of Health (DOH) announced that a Filipina nurse who recently arrived in the country tested positive for the MERS Coronavirus.
North Korea, the world's most isolated country, is thousands of miles from the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and has reported no cases of the virus, which has killed more than 9,000 people.