Readers of this website (both of you) know that I have a fascination with the relationship between inflammation and depression. It just makes sense to me that people who are chronically ill are more likely to be depressed, and people with chronic depression are more likely to be ill. Many studies have shown excellent results treating depression with anti-inflammatory medications like Celebrex® and naproxen. Other studies have shown that Zoloft® is a pretty decent anti-inflammatory medicine.
These researchers set out to examine blood markers of inflammation in patients with hepatitis C and depression. They compared the results to a similar group of people without hepatitis C. They found that people with hepatitis C have sky-high markers of inflammation and a higher incidence of depression. Surprisingly, the control group patients, some of whom happened to be depressed, had similar profiles. These scientists were able to identify specific blood profiles that seem to be associated with depression, information that may provide more specific targets for treatment down the road.
One interesting side note is that this helps to “medical-ize” depression. It helps us to understand it as an illness rather than just an attitude. We can see it as a condition that should be covered by insurance like any chronic disease, and prescription costs for treatment should be similarly covered. Insurances shouldn’t look at this as “six sessions with a social worker and a pat on the back”. There is so much interplay between depression and systemic illnesses, and clearly treating one helps the other. We have a long ways to go before we understand all of this, but we’re learning fast!
Reference: Huckans, M., Fuller, B. E., Olavarria, H., Sasaki, A. W., Chang, M., Flora, K. D., Kolessar, M., Kriz, D., Anderson, J. R., Vandenbark, A. A. and Loftis, J. M. (2013), Multi-analyte profile analysis of plasma immune proteins: altered expression of peripheral immune factors is associated with neuropsychiatric symptom severity in adults with and without chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Brain and Behavior. doi: 10.1002/brb3.200