Researchers have identified genetic markers that may help in identifying alcoholics who could benefit from a commonly prescribed drug that aids recovery in problem drinkers.
The findings show that patients carrying these genetic variants have longer periods of abstinence during the first three months of acamprosate treatment.
Mayo Clinic researchers studied the association between variation in candidate genes and the length of sobriety in alcohol-dependent patients treated with acamprosate in community-based programmes.
They found that, when other environmental and physiological factors were considered, patients with the common allele of the genetic variant rs2058878 located in the GRIN2B gene, stayed sober more days than those with a variant allele of the same polymorphism.
This finding was replicated in a sample of alcohol-dependent patients treated with acamprosate in a study conducted by collaborators from Germany.
“This association finding is a first step towards development of a pharmacogenetic test allowing physicians to choose appropriate treatment for specific subgroups of alcohol-dependent patients,” said Victor Karpyak, Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and lead author of the research.
“We believe that individualised treatment selection will eliminate the need for trial-and-error approaches and improve treatment efficacy in patients with alcohol use disorders,” said Karpyak.
The findings support evidence implicating an important role of the N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the treatment effects of acamprosate.
The researchers said more studies are needed to determine potential importance of identified genetic variants in the longer-term effects of acamprosate, as well as the molecular and physiological mechanisms behind the drug’s action.
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.