Clostridium difficile C
A new study found that certain antidepressants can increase patients' risk of contracting C. difficile infection. Government Handout

Certain antidepressants could heighten patients’ risk of contracting a fatal superbug infection, a recent study from the University of Michigan indicates.

The study, which was published in the journal BMC Medicine on Tuesday, concerns Clostridum difficile, an infection commonly acquired in hospitals that can inflame the colon and kills more than 7,000 Americans yearly. Principal author Dr. Mary Rogers told Fox News the study’s aimed to investigate other possible methods of transmitting Clostridum difficile infection (CDI) besides hygiene factors.

“People knew it was associated with hygiene … so it’s important to wash your hands and keep things clean (when in the hospital),” Rogers said. “But I was also given the charge of looking at other patient-related factors so that maybe we could predict and prevent transmission.”

“What popped out was that people who have a diagnosis of major depression or depressive disorder – and also people who had reported feeling sad or having emotional, nervous psychiatric problems – were more likely to have Clostridium difficile infection,” Rogers said.

The results showed that two antidepressant medications, Remeron (generic name mirtazapine) and Prozac (fluoxetine), doubled the risk of infection. “The link with the antidepressants, we were thinking they too affected the GI [gastrointestinal] system in some way,” Rogers said. “Fluoxetine can result in diarrhea, and sometimes those anti-depressants affect the GI system too, so possibly they're affecting the healthy bacteria in the gut. That might influence whether you’re at risk of infection.”

“There’s a kind of a nexus between the brain and the gut that people don’t think about very much,” Rogers added. “But I think it’s more important than it might first appear that what happens in your gut might sometimes affect problems with brain function and different mental conditions you have – and vice versa.”

While Rogers said the results of the study shouldn’t keep people from taking antidepressants prescribed by a doctor, they do suggest further investigation is needed. “It’s an interesting area of research, and we’re hoping we can look into it a bit more,” she said.

According to the Daily Mail, a new strain of the superbug has already killed three hospital patients in Scotland. Health Protection Scotland, an agency that monitors infectious diseases, was the first to identify the strain, known as ribotype 332. A report stated, “All three cases were severely ill due to other underlying conditions and died following their episode of CDI.”