In their report, specialists from the psychiatry laboratory at the San Rafael Hospital in Milan noted that up to 40% of patients suffer from depression after COVID-19, including those who have easily suffered an infection. During the study, specialists treated 58 volunteers who were diagnosed with this mental disorder after the coronavirus. Participants received drugs from the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – sertraline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine, and citalopram.
Typically, antidepressants in this group are not effective in a third of depressed patients, but scientists found significant improvement in 91% of study participants. Symptoms were assessed using the Hamilton Standard Depression Scale.
According to scientists, this effect is possible, among other things, due to the antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of SSRIs. Since depression after coronavirus is caused by infection and is apparently supported by systemic inflammation, this may be the most optimal treatment option for these patients.
“These results show that post-COVID-19 patients are more likely to cope with depression than we thought,” lead author Dr. Mario Mazza said and urged his colleagues to test these findings in larger studies.
In the near future, scientists plan to assess whether SSRIs can help manage other long-term symptoms of coronavirus, such as cognitive impairment and fatigue, and investigate the role of inflammation in depression after COVID-19.