In many cases, an infection with Covid-19 is mild: Although those affected often suffer from fever and attacked airways, the body can fight the virus on its own.
However, as the many patients in the intensive care units and the large number of deaths show, things can turn out differently.
For those people for whom the coronavirus is at particular risk, there may now be reason to be hopeful.
Because researchers were able to record the first positive results in mice for the drug fluvoxamine as a remedy for corona disease.
Coronavirus: well-known drug as a beacon of hope
In the USA, researchers are currently investigating for the first time in a clinical study on patients to what extent the drug fluvoxamine can be used against Covid-19.
A total of 152 patients suffering from Covid-19 are examined at Washington University. Half of them are treated with fluvoxamine, the other test subjects are given a placebo.
The test subjects were asked to isolate themselves at home and are monitored by phone or online. In addition, the study participants receive thermometers, oxygen sensors for the fingertips and automatic blood pressure monitors.
“We hope that by administering fluvoxamine to patients who are well enough to be at home, we can prevent them from getting sick and going to the hospital,” said Dr. Caline Mattar, a scientist in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington.
Fluvoxamine is not a newly developed drug, but has been used for years to treat depressive disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
If the results of the study are therefore promising, the drug would be an available, well-tried and affordable treatment option to combat the pandemic, since the drug has already been approved and is widely marketed.
But how do you even think that an antidepressant could help with the symptoms of corona?
How Corona and Depression Are Similar
It has been known since 2011 that antidepressant therapies have a preventive effect against derailment of the immune system.
In 2017, further research then recognized that depressed people themselves produce increased levels of inflammatory cytokines – proteins that are responsible for signal transmission between the immune cells and that, in too high a concentration, can cause the immune system to overreact.
In this regard, the physical processes of patients with depression and patients who are particularly badly affected with corona could be similar: the immune system overreacts and thus turns against its own body, so to speak.
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This is why the preliminary experiments with mice at the University of Virginia School of Medicine were so promising: It was found that fluvoxamine could reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines in animals.
The team around Dr. Alban Gaultier now says that the clinical study that has just started will show similarly positive effects in humans.
In the best case, this could mean that future corona diseases would be treated more specifically and could therefore be much milder.
University of Virginia: “COVID-19: UVA Discovery Spurs Clinical Trial of Antidepressant to Fight Virus”, retrieved on May 20, 2020: https://news.virginia.edu/content/covid-19-uva-discovery-spurs-clinical -trial-antidepressant-fight-virus
Neuropsychopharmacology: “The Effect of Antidepressant Medication Treatment on Serum Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines: A Meta-Analysis”, accessed on May 20, 2020: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21796103/
Nature: “Integrating neuroimmune systems in the neurobiology of depression”, accessed on May 20, 2020: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn.2016.69
Science Translational Medicine: “Modulation of the sigma-1 receptor – IRE1 pathway is beneficial in preclinical models of inflammation and sepsis”, retrieved on May 20, 2020: https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/11/478/eaau5266