A Neglected and Inexpensive Resource For Treatment of Resistant Tuberculosis

Armen Hareyan's picture

In 1981, I published the first of nine comprehensive reviews on the immunostimulating and antimicrobial properties of lithium and antidepressants. In 1983, the International Journal of Immunopharmacology published a review in which I predicted that in order to stimulate immune function, an agent would need to have mood elevating actions. Immunostimulation, of tremendous relevance to HIV, was available as early as 1981, but suppressed by pernicious vested interests.

The latest threat to the HIV+ is the emergence of treatment of resistant tuberculosis, which has thrown HIV divas into a state of panic. That is because they are focusing on the bacillus, rather than on immune function. They are not aware of the availability of immunostimulants in the form of antidepressants, so why think about stimulating immune function? The standard medication for T.B is the monoamine oxidase inhibitor, isoniazid, which is also an antidepressant, and thus capable of wearing out its welcome. “Tachyphylaxis” Greek for the rapid erection of a guard or barrier, is the nemesis of antidepressant therapy. When an antidepressant loses its effectiveness, its immunostimulating function decays well.


Now here’s the irony. In the late forties, Isoniazid and iproniazid, both monoamine oxidase inhibitors, were widely used in treating tuberculosis. Physicians on both sides of the Atlantic noticed that some of their tuberculosis patients were experiencing elevations of energy and mood. When they went through their charts, they discovered that the lively one’s, when compared to their inert peers, were taking a monoamine oxide inhibitor. Until then, it wasn’t known that a pill can have an antidepressant effect, the era of antidepressants emerging from the treatment of tuberculosis.

If antituberculotics are also antidepressants, surely antidepressants must all be antituberculotics? So why not stop what they are taking, and try other antidepressants? They all have immunostimulating and antimicrobial properties, don’t they?

Julian Lieb, M.D was a Yale medical school psychiatrist, before switching to the immunopharmacology of infectious disorders and cancer. He is an authority on the role of prostaglandins in depression, infectious disorders, and cancer. Dr Lieb has authored or coauthored forty five articles and nine books.