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Background. Major depressive disorder (MDD) and treatment-resistant depression (TRD) represent a global source of societal and health burden. To advise proper management of inflammation-related depression among TRD patients, it is important to identify therapeutic clinical treatments. A key factor is related to proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin- (IL-) 1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor- (TNF-) α which have been implicated in the pathogenesis of depressive symptoms in MDD patients. Ketamine may provide an anti-inflammatory therapeutic strategy by targeting proinflammatory pathways associated with depressive disorders, which may be exacerbated in the ageing population with TRD.

Objective. Despite a burgeoning body of literature demonstrating that inflammation is linked to TRD, there is still a lack of comprehensive research on the relationship between proinflammatory biomarkers and ketamine’s antidepressant effect on TRD patients.

Method. The Cochrane Library and PubMed/MEDLINE databases were systematically searched from inception up to February 1, 2022, adopting broad inclusion criteria to assess clinical topics related to the impact of ketamine on inflammatory cytokines in TRD patients. The present work is in compliance with the World Health Organization Rapid Review Guide.

Results. Five out of the seven studies examined in this review show that ketamine infusion may reduce depressive symptoms with a quick start of effect on TRD patients. Based on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM- D) scores, the overall response rate for ketamine was 56%; that is, 56% of those treated with ketamine had MADRS/HAM-D scores decreased by at least 50%.

Conclusions. While the anti-inflammatory effects of ketamine modulate specific proinflammatory cytokines, its rapid antidepressant effect on TRD patients remains inconsistent. However, our study findings can provide a reliable basis for future research on how to improve systemic inflammatory immune disorders and mental health. We suggest that ketamine infusion may be part of a comprehensive treatment approach in TRD patients with elevated levels of depression-specific inflammatory biomarkers.



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