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Date: 2016-12-09
Title: The Largest Psychiatric Randomized-Control Trial Wraps up in Ethiopia

In photo: team members from the Addis Ababa University Folate study in front of the research building at Amanuel Mental Hospital. The Ethiopian Principal Investigator, Dr. Solomon Teferra, is second from left.

Colleagues at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia just randomized their last subject in a study that Massachusetts General Hospital has been collaborating on for the last four and a half years. Investigators from Addis Ababa University and the Division of Global Psychiatry at MGH are examining whether supplementation of folate plus the vitamin B12 will reduce residual symptoms of schizophrenia in a cohort of patients currently taking antipsychotic medication at Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital. With 200 participants enrolled and randomized, this is the largest psychiatric randomized-control trial in Ethiopia to date.

Folate is a type of B vitamin typically found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, or in fortified grains. Several studies have linked low folate levels to a wide range of disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Although folate and vitamin B12 levels are unknown across the Ethiopian population as a whole, studies in regions of Ethiopia, and particularly in women, have found high rates of folate deficiency; in Addis Ababa, where the trial is being conducted, one study found only 58% of women reached optimal folate levels1.

If the study drug is found to effectively reduce symptoms of schizophrenia among participants currently taking antipsychotic medication, folate plus B12 could be an inexpensive and highly effective additional therapy for treatment-resistant patients across Ethiopia and in other developing countries.


1) Haidar J, Melaku U, Pobocik RS. Folate deficiency in women of reproductive age in nine administrative regions of Ethiopia: an emerging public health problem. S Afr J Clin Nutr. 2010;23(3):132-137.