June 22, 2023 — Can common anti-depressants prevent COVID-19 infection? That’s the suggestion of research in BMC Medicine, based on infection trends among more than 5,600 mental health care patients in the United Kingdom from April to December 2020.
The report says that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were particularly effective in blocking COVID-19 transmission.
“Mental health patients with a recent (previous 90 days) prescription for an SSRI had an almost 40% reduction in the likelihood of a positive COVID-19 test,” wrote the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.
Research showed that 27.7% of COVID-19 negative patients had taken at least one antidepressant medication within the last 90 days before they were admitted to a mental health care facility, compared to just over 16% of COVID-19 positive patients.
CIDRAP noted, “SSRIs, including fluvoxamine (Luvox) and fluoxetine (Prozac), have been studied by various groups during the pandemic, with mixed results in regards to protection against or treatment for the virus.”
But researchers say their study could show the usefulness of SSRIs beyond just anxiety and depression.
“The results of this study hint at the potential clinical benefit” of SSRIs on COVID-19 infection, said the lead author, Oleg Glebov of King’s College London, in a press release.
He called for further study, saying, “Cheap, well-characterised and readily available drugs such as antidepressants may help in curbing the spread of COVID-19.”