April 4 (UPI) -- A study at University College London and the University of Zurich has found that a common antibiotic may be effective at treating and preventing post traumatic stress disorder, potentially opening up what researchers called "an entirely new treatment strategy for PTSD."
PTSD describes a broad range of psychological symptoms that develop after a person experiences a traumatic event.
Researchers conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized controlled trial in 76 healthy participants.
Trial participants received doxycycline or a placebo, and were taught to associate a certain color with an electric shock. After a week, participants were shown the colors again but this time with a loud sound and not an electric shock to measure their fear response.
Results showed that the fear response was 60 percent lower in participants taking doxycycline compared to those taking the placebo.
"When we talk about reducing fear memory, we are not talking about deleting the memory of what actually happened," Dominik Bach, a professor at the UCL Welcome Center for Neuroimaging, Max Planck UCL Center for Computational Psychiatry and Aging Research and the University of Zurich Division of Clinical Psychiatry Research, said in a press release. "The participants may not forget that they received a shock when the screen was red, but they 'forget' to be instinctively scared when they next see a red screen. Learning to fear threats is an important ability for any organism, helping us to avoid dangers such as predators. Over-prediction of threat, however, can cause tremendous suffering and distress in anxiety disorders such as PTSD."
The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry.