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01 Sep 2017

The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is the world’s largest genetic investigation into depression to date. It is surveying 200,000 people worldwide -- including 20,000 Australians -- in the hope of identifying the genes responsible for putting someone at risk of mental illness.

Interim data collated by the study has already revealed more than two-thirds of the participants have had to rely upon multiple antidepressants to treat their clinical depression – a trial and error approach that remains a major challenge in delivering more effective mental health care.

The interim data, published in MJA InSight in August, suggests the limit of our current knowledge of treating clinical depression has been reached, and a far more effective personalised and targeted approach is needed to optimise outcomes.

It has been just three months since the Australian Genetics of Depression Study began, and 10,000 Australians have already enrolled.

Research author, study co-investigator and co-director for Health and Policy, Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, Professor Ian Hickie, has now put out the call for the enrolment of another 10,000 adults into the ground breaking Australian Genetics of Depression Study.

One in seven Australians will experience clinical depression during their lifetime. The mental illness represents the top cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. Moreover, Australia has one of the highest antidepressant prescribing rates per head of all OECD countries – behaviour that delivers considerable benefits, but also forces many people to contend with ongoing, disabling and potentially life-threatening medication-related side-effects.

Professor Hickie said the interim data has revealed that a better targeting of existing treatments through individual genetic profiling before commencing medication would drive a major advance in clinical therapy.

“Given our lack of diagnostic methods to predict different responses to antidepressants, or forecast the potential for intolerable side-effects, we are exposing those battling clinical depression, to trial and error, which is often slow to deliver significant benefits,” he said.

The researchers also believe the interim data illustrates treatment has failed to move effectively from the general principles of treating clinical depression to much more personalised and targeted approaches that minimise risk to maximise benefit.

Participating in the Australian Genetics of Depression Study is simple and free. Volunteers complete a 15-minute online survey and, depending upon their responses, may be asked to donate a saliva sample. Study researchers will then analyse the saliva (DNA) samples to investigate and pinpoint specific genes that may be associated with clinical depression.

The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is being conducted internationally, with 200,000 participant samples required. Australia is aiming to contribute 10 per cent of the total study population.

To volunteer for the Australian Genetics of Depression Study, or to learn more head to: www.geneticsofdepression.org.au

MEREDITH HORNE


Published: 01 Sep 2017