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Psychosom Med. 2005 Sep-Oct;67(5):773-7.

Irritability rather than depression during interferon treatment is linked to increased tryptophan catabolism.

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  • 1Department of Biological Psychiatry, University Hospital Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. s.r.russo@acggn.azg.nl

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Treatment with recombinant interferon is associated with high rates of psychiatric comorbidity. We investigated the relation between catabolism of the essential amino acid tryptophan, being rate-limiting of peripheral and cerebral serotonin formation, and psychiatric symptoms in patients undergoing combination treatment with interferon-alpha and ribavirin.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

Eighteen patients with viral hepatitis C who received interferon were included. A psychiatrist screened patients before and while on interferon-alpha treatment for 2 months, using a structured diagnostic interview. Fasting plasma tryptophan and platelet serotonin levels were measured at each visit.

RESULTS:

At baseline no evident psychopathology was observed. After 2 months of interferon treatment, 10 patients experienced increased irritability. No other structural psychopathology was observed. Decreased plasma tryptophan level correlated with the presence of irritability (p = .047). Platelet serotonin levels were found to be decreased during treatment (p = .002).

CONCLUSIONS:

Aggressive impulse dysregulation is highly prevalent in patients receiving interferon treatment. This is associated with decreased plasma tryptophan levels which may lead to attenuated peripheral and central serotonergic neurotransmission.

PMID:
16204437
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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