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Antidepressant may prevent severe COVID-19, U.Va. research finds – Health News Today

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The antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening and may help keep patients out of the hospital, a trial based on research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests. 

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

The antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening and may help keep patients out of the hospital, a trial based on research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

The clinical trial, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, compared fluvoxamine with a placebo in 152 adult outpatients infected with the coronavirus.

None of the 80 participants who received fluvoxamine became seriously ill after 15 days, while six patients who received placebo did. Of those six, four were hospitalized, for periods ranging from four to 21 days. One was on a ventilator for 10 days.

While the study size was small, the researchers say the results are statistically significant and that fluvoxamine warrants further study as a COVID-19 treatment. They plan to launch a larger trial in the next few weeks.

“The patients who took fluvoxamine did not develop serious breathing difficulties or require hospitalization for problems with lung function,” said Eric J. Lenze, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine. “Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it’s also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital. Our study suggests fluvoxamine may help fill that niche.”

The Washington University researchers launched the randomized, double-blinded trial based on a discovery by U.Va.’s Alban Gaultier, PhD, and former graduate student Dorian A Rosen, PhD. Gaultier and Rosen found last year that fluvoxamine may stop the deadly inflammation known as sepsis, in which the immune response spirals out of control. The drug, they determined, reduced the production of cytokines, which have been linked to potentially deadly “cytokine storms” thought to occur in severe cases of COVID-19.

That connection prompted the Washington University team to investigate the possibility that fluvoxamine could have a protective effect for patients with COVID-19. Perhaps, they thought, the drug could help prevent the immune system overreactions triggered by this strange new coronavirus. And their work suggests it may.

“Because elevated cytokines levels have been associated with COVID-19 severity, testing fluvoxamine in a clinical trial made a lot of sense to us,” said Gaultier, of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience and its Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “We are still unclear about the mode of action of fluvoxamine against…

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