Antipsychotics can lower Covid-19 severity risk

London: Patients treated with antipsychotic drugs have a lower risk of becoming infected or suffer a milder form of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus causing Covid-19 — if they get infected, according to a study. People with severe mental disorders have been identified as a high-risk group for a worse outcome in Covid-19 due to lower awareness of risk, higher prevalence of cognitive impairment among others.

But, "the number of Covid-19 patients is lower than expected among this group of people and in cases where a proven infection does occur, the evolution is benign and does not reach a life-threatening clinical situation," said Manuel Canal Rivero, clinical psychologist from Virgen del Rocio University Hospital in Sevilla, Spain.

For the study, detailed in the journal Schizophrenia Research, the team examined 698 patients treated with antipsychotics at the Seville hospital in Spain and found that antipsychotic drugs could provide protection against both infection and the tendency to clinical severity of Covid-19 infection.

The team also examined the gene expression profile (indicator of activated biological processes) of Covid-19 patients (Wuhan cohort) and patients being treated with antipsychotic drugs (specifically, aripiprazole). They found that many of the genes altered by Covid-19 are significantly down-regulated by antipsychotic drugs, which are commonly used to treat diseases with psychotic symptoms.

"In a striking way we have shown how antipsychotics reduce the activation of genes involved in many of the inflammatory and immunological pathways associated with the severity of Covid-19 infection," said Crespo-Facorro, Professor at the vasrsity.

"Although this finding requires replication, the discovery could be very significant because the treatment of Covid-19 with drugs originally indicated for unrelated clinical situations, that is to say drug repositioning, has been shown to be an interesting source of effective treatments for Covid-19 patients," he said.

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