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Do antidepressants work against long Covid?  A small study suggests so

Do antidepressants work against long Covid? A small study suggests so

It started with a message sent NRC Handelsblad, where neuropsychiatrist Carla Ross (70 years old) announced that antidepressants may help treat long-term coronavirus complaints. It turns out that two of her acquaintances became almost complaint-free after three weeks of taking it. Ross was then buried under a torrent of emails and phone calls from long-term Covid patients. More than 1500.

The first experiments were so promising that Ross began conducting a study. She had 95 long Covid patients who requested antidepressants complete general questionnaires about the severity of their complaints before and after treatment. It turned out that more than six out of ten improved significantly. In particular, brain fog, overstimulation and fatigue are reduced. One in ten did not notice any or experienced many side effects.


“The worse the complaints, the greater the recovery,” Ross concludes. “Some patients felt like they had their lives back.” the results Recently published in top American magazines Scientific reports.

According to the neuropsychiatrist, the beneficial effects have nothing to do with the improvement in mood that antidepressants usually provide. Not only do the pills increase the availability of serotonin in the brain, but they also affect the immune system and prevent inflammation. According to Ross, this has been proven in numerous studies.

New treatment

However, Bethea Newkirk, a researcher at the Medical University of Amsterdam, sees several indications in the study that antidepressants could help combat long-term Covid. Newkirk recently submitted a research proposal for follow-up research, and hopes to receive a grant in December. A similar study is already underway in the United States.

“It would be a shame not to investigate this further, given the significant impact long Covid has had on the lives of many patients,” Newkirk says. If antidepressants prove to be the solution, this offers the possibility of a new treatment.

Placebo effect

Nieuwkerk does not advise patients to contact their GP immediately for antidepressants. “Ross’s findings are promising, but not conclusive. Her study did not compare patients who took antidepressants with patients who did not take the pill. So you are not 100% sure whether patients recovered as a result of the antidepressants. It could also be because Placebo effect, or due to spontaneous recovery.

Moreover, the research results are based on self-reports and on estimates provided by the people themselves, says Gerard van Breukelen, a methodologist in Maastricht. It is known that the response is not always reliable.

1.5 million

Brain researcher Dick Swaab, who has advised on potential biological mechanisms, describes the study as a first step. “The relationship between antidepressants and long-term Covid needs to be proven in controlled follow-up studies,” Swaab said.

Ross thinks so too. “I first approached four universities for research. But no institution changed course, mainly due to a lack of funds. It was only later that Ernst Kuipers, the Minister of Health, decided to make money available for post-Covid research.

It was announced last month that forty doctors and scientists from five academic centers would conduct research into the causes of long Covid. This is done with €1.5 million from the Long Covid Foundation.


Ross had to work on her own with her husband, Bert de Vries, who was a social scientist and processed patients’ answers. and his son Ingmar, a brain scientist, who analyzed the data statistically. An investigation done many times at the kitchen table.

The question remains how this kitchen table study appeared in such a journal Scientific reports I finish. “Because long Covid has an enormous individual and social impact,” Newkirk says. “The urgency of this is felt throughout the community.”

Read also:

Doctors want to move faster than the government and start their own research into long Covid

More than forty doctors and scientists will use private funds to research the cause of long Covid. They no longer want to wait for announced government subsidies.

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