Pharmacopsychiatry 2003; 36 - 244
DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-825487

Interferon-alpha treatment and serotonergic dysfunction

M Schaefer 1, M Schwaiger 1, M Pich 1, E Franke 1, R Uebelhack 1, F van Boemmel 2, T Berg 2
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Charité, Humboldt-University, Berlin
  • 2Department of Gastroenterology, Charité, Humboldt-University, Berlin

Treatment with interferon-alpha in patients with a chronic hepatitis C (cHC) infection is frequently associated with depressive mood changes, possibly related to a modulation of the serotonergic system. Method: In a prospective controlled study biochemical measures included assays of 5-HT concentration, 5-HT uptake and MAO-B activity at a low physiological substrate concentration in platelets of 64 untreated HCV-infected patients were compared to 21 healthy controls. Furthermore 30 patients with a cHC were evaluated before and during IFN-α treatment. Results: While the serotonin platelet concentration did not differ between controls and HCV-infected patients, 5-HT-uptake and the MAO-B activity were significant lower in patients with HCV-infection (p<0.001). Interferon-treatment lead to an increase in 5-HT reuptake (p=0.01), to an increase of MAO-B activity (p<0.001) and to a decrease of serotonin concentration (p<0.01). Conclusion: Our data support the hypothesis of a serotonergic deficit in patients with chronic HCV-infection during interferon-alpha treatment.