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Treating depression with antibiotics

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Researchers at Deakin University have undertaken a trial using an antibiotic to treat depression.

The trial added a daily dose of minocycline – a broad-spectrum antibiotic that has been prescribed since 1971 – to the usual treatment of 71 people experiencing major depression.

The research team, led by Deakin’s Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment within the School of Medicine, then compared the effects to a control group taking a placebo.

The results have been published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry and show that those taking minocycline reported improved functioning and quality of life.

Lead researcher Dr Olivia Dean said the minocycline trial was small, but had some significant results.

“We found that those on minocycline reported significant improvements in functioning, quality of life, global impression of their illness, and there was also a trend towards improvements in anxiety symptoms,” Dr Dean said.

The trial was based upon evidence that suggests people with a major depressive disorder have increased levels of inflammation in their body.

Dr Dean said that: “Specifically, minocycline reduces brain inflammation in cell models, and thus we wanted to see if it was useful for people.”

There is a huge need for improved treatment options for people with major depression.  Beyond Blue estimates that In Australia, 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around one million Australian adults have depression.

The World Health Organisation released data this year that shows more than 300 million people around the globe are now living with depression.

“Current antidepressants are useful, but many people find a gap between their experience before becoming unwell and their recovery following treatment,” Dr Dean said.

Dr Dean said her team was now in the process of applying for funding to expand the trial to a larger group.

This research was supported by Deakin University, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the University of Melbourne, Barwon Health, Chulalongkorn University, the Brain and Behavior Foundation (USA), and an Australasian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders/Servier grant.