OBJECTIVE: The current diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) do not allow prediction of prognosis and therapeutic response. A possible strategy to improve this situation is the identification of depression subtypes on the bases of biomarkers reflecting underlying pathological processes such as neuro-inflammation.
METHODS: The PubMed/Medline database was searched until Apr 25th, 2017. In the initial search 1018 articles were retrieved, which were subsequently screened and only selected when the inclusion and exclusion criteria were fulfilled.
RESULTS: Eight eligible studies were found. Overall, serum interleukin-6 and 1β values were increased in the melancholic MDD subtype compared to controls and the non-melancholic MDD subtype. C-reactive protein was increased in non-melancholic MDD in 2 out of 4 studies, while there was no difference for tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-2 and 10.
CONCLUSION: Given the paucity of eligible studies the tentative conclusion must be drawn that peripheral inflammation markers have limited added value thus far to distinguish between melancholic and non-melancholic depression. To allow for a more definitive conclusion, further research is warranted using a broader panel of inflammatory markers in MDD subtypes, preferably based on a general consensus regarding diagnostic criteria and subtype definitions.