People who take certain types of antidepressants may be at higher risk for
potentially deadly Clostridium difficile infection, a new study
This type of infection is one of the most common caught by hospital patients
and causes more than 7 000 deaths each year in the United States. Several
medications are thought to increase the risk for this infection, including
How the study was done
In this study, University of Michigan researchers examined C.
difficile infection in people with and without depression, and found that
those with major depression had a 36% higher risk than those without depression.
Older, widowed people were 54% more likely to catch C. difficile than
older married people. People who lived alone had a 25% higher risk than those
who lived with others.
The researchers then investigated if there was a link between antidepressants
and C. difficile infection. They found that only two - Remeron
(mirtazapine) and Prozac (fluoxetine) - increased the risk, and that each drug
doubled the risk.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, should improve
identification and early treatment of C. difficile infection in people
taking these antidepressants, the researchers said.
The reason for the increased risk of infection in people taking the
antidepressants is unknown, and people who have been prescribed the drugs need
to keep taking them unless their doctor tells them otherwise, the researchers
said. The research showed an association between antidepressant use and
increased risk of contracting the infection, but it did not prove a
"Depression is common worldwide," study leader Dr Mary Rogers said. "We have long known that depression is associated with changes in the
"The interaction between the brain and the gut, called the 'brain-gut axis,'
is fascinating and deserves more study," Rogers said.
"Our finding of a link between depression and Clostridium difficile
should help us better identify those at risk of infection and perhaps encourage
exploration of the underlying brain-gut mechanisms involved."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about C.