The study found that patients who tried to kill themselves have significantly elevated levels of the IL6 substance in their blood, reported the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).
Standard blood samples will now allow for easier and earlier detection.
The IL6 levels differ greatly from both depressed and completely healthy people, according to the report.
“We need to find out where the limits are. We now know IL6, in combination with other inflammatory substances, can be used as a marker to identify severely ill patients who are also at risk for suicidal thoughts,” Lena Brundin, associate professor of experimental psychiatry and director of the Division for psycho immunology at Lund University, told SvD.
IL6 is an interleukin that acts as a signalling molecule for the immune system and is released to stimulate an immune response to trauma, especially burns or other tissue damage that leads to inflammation.
Previously, the same research team in Lund determined that a person who had attempted suicide could be distinguished from others with depression by their significantly elevated levels of the immunoreactive substance IL6 in the cerebrospinal fluid.
High levels of the substance show that patients who are suicidal seem to have an inflammation of the brain and that distinguishes them from others with depression.
This finding may opens doors for new treatments.
The population affected are usually described as treatment resistant, meaning they do not respond to the usual anti-depressive therapy.
The research team in Lund will now also begin a new study to see if at-risk patients respond better to a new combination of drugs, a cocktail of both anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-depressant treatment.
“The anti-inflammatory drugs we use are those that are already on the market. Therefore, we will quickly be able to see if they appear to have an effect. Our theory is that inflammation is in the way and blocks the action of antidepressant treatment,” Brundin told SvD.