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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2009;11(4):417-25.

Major depression during interferon-alpha treatment: vulnerability and prevention.

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Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) during interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) treatment can occur within a few months of therapy, and shares many homologies with other forms of MDD. Most patients are resilient to the side effect of interferon-induced depression (IFN-MDD), but 15% to 40% are vulnerable. Several studies have employed antidepressants to prevent the incidence of an IFN-MDD episode, and the results suggest that prophylactic antidepressants may be specifically useful in those with pre-existing subthreshold depressive symptoms and/or a history of prior MDD episodes. Several other potential markers of vulnerability for IFN-MDD have been implicated in assessments of nondepressed patients before they start IFN-alpha. These include poor sleep quality, premorbid elevations in inflammatory cytokines, genetic polymorphisms in the serotonin system, personality, and social support. The interplay of these factors strongly predicts who is at risk for IFN-MDD, and indicates several potentially modifiable targets for the personalized prevention of IFN-MDD.

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