A side-effect of antidepressant drugs may be to boost the immune system, new research has shown.
By promoting enhanced activity of natural killer cells evidence suggests antidepressants could help defend against infections such as the Aids virus HIV and even cancer.
Scientists used depressed and non-depressed HIV-positive women and treated them with three different types of drugs used to treat stress and depression.
One was citalopram, a selective seretonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) belonging to the same drug family as Prozac. The other two were the “substance P” antagonist, CP 96,345, and the glucocorticoid antagonist, RU486. Antagonist drugs block specific biological pathways.
The research showed that citalopram and CP 96,345 both increased NK cell activity, while RU486 had no effect.
Study leader Dr Dwight Evans from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, US, said: “The present findings provide evidence that natural killer cell function in HIV infection may be enhanced by selective serotonin re-uptake inhibition and also by substance P antagonism in both depressed and non-depressed individuals.”
The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry.
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