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UToledo researchers look at antidepressant as potential treatment for COVID-19 symptoms

Researchers at the University of Toledo say the medication decreases both inflammation and stops the spread of a molecule that overcharges immune systems.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Despite no vaccine, there is hope for coronavirus patients coming from researchers at the University of Toledo. 

Scientists like Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith believe fluoxetine, which is usually prescribed for depression, could help reduce the symptoms of coronavirus patients.

"To give patients, as soon as they think they have COVID-19, have the symptoms or have tested positive to give fluoxetine early on and try and prevent problems," McCullumsmith said.

So why an antidepressant? To make things simple, patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 have an overcharged immune system. This happens when certain molecules go out of control, the main one being "IL6" so reducing "IL6" is the key, McCullumsmith said, to getting rid of coronavirus in the human body.

Fluoxetine, the antidepressant you might know as Prozac, decreases both inflammation and stops the spread of "IL6" making it a low risk treatment option. 

"And so we're taking advantage of that and, like I said, we would monitor people carefully," McCullumsmith said.

Researchers are currently accepting participants in a study looking at the use of this drug as a potential treatment. Anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or is exhibiting early symptoms can sign up to receive the medication for free. Even if you are exhibiting symptoms but do not want to take the medication, you can still volunteer to take a placebo pill.

This study is one of the first of its kind to be done in the country. Researchers are hoping to start on Monday.

To participate, you can call 419-383-9850 and tell them you are interested in participating in the COVID-19 Prozac clinical trial.

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