New research found that a medication typically used to treat anxiety prevented worsening symptoms in nonhospitalized Covid-19 patients.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis divided 152 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous seven days into two groups. Eighty were given fluvoxamine — a kind of antidepressant known as an SSRI that also has a strong effect on inflammation — and 72 patients got a placebo. After 15 days, none of the patients who got the drug saw symptoms deteriorate — defined as shortness of breath and lower oxygen saturation — but six of the patients on placebo did get worse. Four of them were hospitalized and one required a ventilator to breathe. That 8.3% deterioration rate in the placebo group is considered statistically significant.

Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician at Boston University, would also like to see the preliminary data lead to larger trials and a better understanding of the possible biological mechanisms at work.

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