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Trial based on UVA research may help treat COVID-19

A researcher fills a test tube

Drawing on research conducted at UVA, a preliminary trial at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that an antidepressant may prevent serious complications and the need for hospitalization in COVID-19 patients. Dorian Rosen (Grad ’14), a former graduate student in the lab of associate professor Alban Gaultier of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, was lead author on a study published in 2019 that found that fluvoxamine, a drug often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, also appeared to be effective in fighting the potentially deadly condition of sepsis that is characterized by a runaway inflammatory immune-system response to infection. The St. Louis team’s study looked at whether fluvoxamine could prevent a similar immune-system response that is believed to play a role in at least some cases of severe COVID-19.

The trial involved 152 nonhospitalized COVID patients who were randomly assigned to receive a course of fluvoxamine or a placebo. After 15 days, six out of 72 patients taking the placebo developed serious illness, and four required hospitalization, while none of the 80 patients taking fluvoxamine experienced severe illness. The results from the preliminary trial were promising enough that the researchers plan to soon begin a larger study.