Background: Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) treatment frequently induces depression, potentially leading to early dose reductions or a shorter duration of treatment, which can adversely affect outcomes, including quality of life.
Objective: Defining relevant risk factors for IFN-alpha-induced depression is essential in order to identify prophylactic treatment strategies.
Method: The authors examined whether a functional polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the gene encoding the serotonin transporter moderates IFN-alpha-induced depressive symptoms in 1,015 patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) receiving pegylated IFN-alpha and ribavirin. Depressive symptoms were assessed at baseline, 12 weeks, and 20 weeks of treatment.
Results: Depression symptoms increased during antiviral treatment; 5-HTTLPR genotype moderated IFN-alpha-induced depression symptoms in both non-Hispanic Caucasians and Hispanic patients, although the opposite risk allele was associated with depression in the two populations.
Conclusion: 5-HTTLPR may moderate risk for the development of depressive symptoms during IFN-alpha therapy for CHC in a population-specific manner.