Health: Antidepressant for COVID-19 reduces hospitalization risk, a new study finds

UC expert explains how the body responds to drugs like fluvoxamine

The anti-depressant drug fluvoxamine is being looked at by researchers as a possible treatment for COVID-19. A recently released study found the drug showed a reduced risk of hospitalization and death among COVID patients. However, the researchers concluded that more research is needed. reported that experts believe fluvoxamine has shown to be effective against COVID-19 due to the medication's effects on the body's inflammatory response—specifically by tamping down that response in those with active COVID-19 infections.

Dr. Fichtenbaum and Jassiel HIV study in lab.

Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

Normally, when the body is trying to fight off an invader like SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), it releases cytokines, or biological chemicals that stimulate cell pathways and allow for communication between cells. Those cytokines signal to the body's immune system that it needs to start doing its job. In some cases, though, the the outpouring of cytokines becomes accelerated—known as a cytokine storm—creating high levels of inflammation in the body. 

Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine explained how that process works. 

Normally, cytokines are meant to be helpful to us in moderation," said Fichtenbaum, "but when a certain pathway is engaged [too much] the immune system starts causing damage to the patient."

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Lead image/CDC

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