Blood test to personalise depression treatment for the first time

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Scientists at King’s College London have developed a blood test that accurately and reliably predicts whether depressed patients will respond to common antidepressants, which could herald a new era of personalised treatment for people with depression.

Guided by this test, patients with blood inflammation above a certain threshold could be directed towards earlier access to more assertive antidepressant strategies, such as a combination of antidepressants, before their condition worsens.

Approximately half of all depressed patients do not respond to first-line antidepressants and a third of patients are resistant to all available pharmacological treatments. Until now, it has been impossible to establish if individual patients will respond to common antidepressants or if they need a more assertive antidepressant treatment plan, which may include a combination of more than one medication.

As a result, patients are treated with a trial-and-error approach whereby one antidepressant is tried after another, often for 12 or more weeks for every type of antidepressant. This can result in long periods of ineffective antidepressant treatment for individuals who may not show an improvement in symptoms anyway.

The study, published today by The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, focused on two biomarkers that measure blood inflammation, as previous studies have already shown that elevated levels of inflammation are associated with poor response to antidepressants.

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