Dr. Dorian Rosen (Pharmacology PhD, 2019), while working in the Alban Gaultier lab, showed that a common SSRI antidepressant, fluvoxamine, can also engage the sigma-1 receptor to dampen cytokine-mediate inflammatory responses, likely by effects on ER stress pathways. Based in part on these findings, and recognizing that excess cytokine production may be involved in the progression of COVID-19, researchers at Washington University initiated a small clinical trial that yielded early encouraging results. Now, as reported today in the Lancet, and highlighted in the New York Times, fluvoxamine was found to improve outcomes in high-risk patients with COVID-19 in a large randomized, placebo-controlled trial out of Brazil. Notably, the Rosen/Gaultier mechanism was cited as a possible mechanism for the salutary effects of this inexpensive, re-purposed drug ($4 per 10-day course). Congratulations to Alban and Dorian for their important contributions to the conceptual and practical insights that culminated in this result – this is not necessarily why we do our science, but it is surely satisfying when it works out this way.
For anyone interested in additional information on the development of this treatment, see: