Antidepressants, antimicrobials or both? Gut microbiota dysbiosis in depression and possible implications of the antimicrobial effects of antidepressant drugs for antidepressant effectiveness

J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 15:208:22-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.012. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


Objectives: The first drug repurposed for the treatment of depression was the tuberculostatic iproniazid. At present, drugs belonging to new classes of antidepressants still have antimicrobial effects. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota was implicated in the development or exacerbation of mental disorders, such as major depressive disorder (MDD). Based on the current interest in the gut-brain axis, the focus of this narrative review is to compile the available studies regarding the influences of gut microbiota in behavior and depression and to show the antimicrobial effect of antidepressant drugs. A discussion regarding the possible contribution of the antimicrobial effect of antidepressant drugs to its effectiveness/resistance is included.

Methods: The search included relevant articles from PubMed, SciELO, LILACS, PsycINFO, and ISI Web of Knowledge.

Results: MDD is associated with changes in gut permeability and microbiota composition. In this respect, antidepressant drugs present antimicrobial effects that could also be related to the effectiveness of these drugs for MDD treatment. Conversely, some antimicrobials present antidepressant effects.

Conclusion: Both antidepressants and antimicrobials present neuroprotective/antidepressant and antimicrobial effects. Further studies are needed to evaluate the participation of antimicrobial mechanisms of antidepressants in MDD treatment as well as to determine the contribution of this effect to antidepressant resistance.

Keywords: Antidepressants; Antimicrobials; Depression; Dysbiosis; Gut microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / microbiology*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents