Blood test 'could help predict response to antidepressants'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

Scientists in the US have developed a new technique that uses a simple blood test to help predict response rates to antidepressants.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have indicated that measuring a patient's C-reactive protein levels through a simple finger-prick blood test can help doctors prescribe a medication that is more likely to work.

“A new blood test could help doctors identify which individuals with depression are most likely to respond positively to treatment.“

For patients whose CRP levels were less than one mg per liter, the drug escitalopram alone was more effective than an alternative medicine called bupropion; by contrast, those with higher CRP levels were more likely to benefit from escitalopram plus bupropion.

CRP was chosen as a potential marker for depression treatments because it has been an effective measure of inflammation for other disorders, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Currently, one-third of depressed patients do not improve after taking their first medication, while around 40 percent who start taking antidepressants stop within three months. As such, this blood test could lead to a significant boost in success rates.

Study leader Dr Madhukar Trivedi, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said: "Currently, our selection of depression medications is not any more superior than flipping a coin, and yet that is what we do. Now we have a biological explanation to guide treatment of depression."

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