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Can antidepressants help prevent COVID?

New research from King’s College London has found that community mental health patients who were prescribed antidepressants were significantly less likely to test positive for COVID-19 when admitted to inpatient care.

The research suggests that antidepressants – particularly the most commonly prescribed class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – may have a preventative role against COVID-19 infection, and could provide a complementary approach to mass vaccination.

Using the Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS), a platform that enables researchers to investigate patient records without accessing personal data, researchers analysed the clinical records of 5664 patients admitted for mental health care at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All newly admitted patients were mandatorily tested for COVID-19 and throughout their inpatient care.

Out of the 5664 patients, 202 patients tested positive. Researchers found that positive COVID-19 test results were about half as frequent in patients who recently had antidepressants mentioned on their medical record (90 days prior to admission), when compared to the patients with no such record.

Further statistical analysis revealed that a recent prescription of antidepressants was associated with an approximate 40% reduction in the likelihood of a positive COVID-19 test and SSRIs was the only class of antidepressants showing this association.

Dr Oleg Glebov, lead author, said: “If our findings hold up in further investigation, it may provide some help for those left behind by the currently available strategies for COVID-19 prevention.”

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Image credit | iStock

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