A NEW drug to control bipolar disorder has been identified by Oxford University researchers in a study of mice.

The drug is similar to lithium, the most common treatment, but without its side-effects, which include weight gain and kidney damage in long-term use.

The newly-identified drug, called ebselen, is known to be safe in humans, and its use for bipolar disorder, which causes severe depression and mood swings, can now be tested in clinical trials.

Dr Grant Churchill, of the department of pharmacology at Oxford University, said: “Lithium has been used for over 60 years and remains the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder, but suffers from toxicity and has many side-effects.

“Ebselen is an experimental drug that has been tested in people for other conditions, and does not have problematic side-effects like lithium does.

“We urgently need to test if ebselen works like lithium in people.”

The work was funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the findings have been reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Bipolar disorder is estimated to affect about one person in every 100 in the UK.