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Immune system markers may predict affective disorder treatment response, but whether an overall immune system marker predicts bipolar disorder treatment effect is unclear.
Bipolar CHOICE (N = 482) and LiTMUS (N = 283) were similar comparative effectiveness trials treating patients with bipolar disorder for 24 weeks with four different treatment arms (standard-dose lithium, quetiapine, moderate-dose lithium plus optimised personalised treatment (OPT) and OPT without lithium). We performed secondary mixed effects linear regression analyses adjusted for age, gender, smoking and body mass index to investigate relationships between pre-treatment white blood cell (WBC) levels and clinical global impression scale (CGI) response.
Compared to participants with WBC counts of 4.5–10 × 109/l, participants with WBC < 4.5 or WBC ≥ 10 showed similar improvement within each specific treatment arm and in gender-stratified analyses.
An overall immune system marker did not predict differential treatment response to four different treatment approaches for bipolar disorder all lasting 24 weeks.
Immunological theories, particularly the sickness syndrome theory, may explain psychopathology in mood disorders. However, no clinical trials have investigated the association between overall immune system markers with a wide range of specific symptoms including potential gender differences.
We included two similar clinical trials, the lithium treatment moderate-dose use study and clinical and health outcomes initiatives in comparative effectiveness for bipolar disorder study, enrolling 765 participants with bipolar disorder. At study entry, white blood cell (WBC) count was measured and psychopathology assessed with the Montgomery and Aasberg depression rating scale (MADRS). We performed analysis of variance and linear regression analyses to investigate the relationship between the deviation from the median WBC, and multinomial regression analysis between different WBC levels. All analyses were performed gender-specific and adjusted for age, body mass index, smoking, race, and somatic diseases.
The overall MADRS score increased significantly for each 1.0×109/l deviation from the median WBC among 322 men (coefficient=1.10; 95% CI=0.32–1.89; p=0.006), but not among 443 women (coefficient=0.56; 95% CI=−0.19–1.31; p=0.14). Among men, WBC deviations were associated with increased severity of sadness, inner tension, reduced sleep, reduced appetite, concentration difficulties, inability to feel, and suicidal thoughts. Among women, WBC deviations were associated with increased severity of reduced appetite, concentration difficulties, lassitude, inability to feel, and pessimistic thoughts. Both higher and lower WBC levels were associated with increased severity of several specific symptoms.
Immune system alterations were associated with increased severity of specific mood symptoms, particularly among men. Our results support the sickness syndrome theory, but furthermore emphasise the relevance to study immune suppression in bipolar disorder. Due to the explorative nature and cross-sectional design, future studies need to confirm these findings.
Little is known about predictors of recovery from bipolar depression.
We investigated affective instability (a pattern of frequent and large mood shifts over time) as a predictor of recovery from episodes of bipolar depression and as a moderator of response to psychosocial treatment for acute depression.
A total of 252 out-patients with DSM-IV bipolar I or II disorder and who were depressed enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD) and were randomised to one of three types of intensive psychotherapy for depression (n = 141) or a brief psychoeducational intervention (n = 111). All analyses were by intention-to-treat.
Degree of instability of symptoms of depression and mania predicted a lower likelihood of recovery and longer time until recovery, independent of the concurrent effects of symptom severity. Affective instability did not moderate the effects of psychosocial treatment on recovery from depression.
Affective instability may be a clinically relevant characteristic that influences the course of bipolar depression.
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