In a new study, researchers found that the antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening and may help keep patients out of the hospital.
The research was conducted by a team from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
A previous study from the team had shown that fluvoxamine may stop the deadly inflammation known as sepsis, in which the immune response spirals out of control.
The drug reduced the production of cytokines, which have been linked to potentially deadly “cytokine storms” thought to occur in severe cases of COVID-19.
In the study, the team compared fluvoxamine with a placebo in 152 adult outpatients infected with the coronavirus.
None of the participants who received fluvoxamine showed clinical deterioration after 15 days, while six patients who received the placebo did.
Of those six patients, four were hospitalized, for periods ranging from four to 21 days. One was on a ventilator for 10 days.
In addition, the patients who took fluvoxamine did not develop serious breathing difficulties or require hospitalization for problems with lung function.
While the study size was small, the researchers say the results are statistically significant and that fluvoxamine warrants further study as a COVID-19 treatment.
They plan to launch a larger trial in the next few weeks.
The team says that recent research has raised questions about whether cytokines are really playing important roles in COVID-19 deaths.
If not, fluvoxamine may be having beneficial effects by some other mechanism not yet understood.
One author of the study is Eric J. Lenze, MD, from the Washington University School of Medicine.
The study is published in JAMA.
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