Study: antibiotic apparently works against post-traumatic stress disorders

Post-traumatic stress disorder avoidable by taking antibiotics?
Traumatic experiences often cause long-term psychological problems in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This cannot always be successfully remedied by psychotherapeutic treatment. New drug treatment options are therefore urgently needed. Here, taking an antibiotic could be surprisingly helpful.

In a recent study, scientists from the Psychiatric University Clinic and the University of Zurich found that taking the antibiotic doxycycline can help prevent post-traumatic stress disorders. After taking the drug, the study participants remembered an uncomfortable event significantly less, the university said. The researchers have published the results of their study in the journal "Molecular Psychiatry".

Trauma memory can be influenced with medication
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur as a result of physical violence, war or a natural disaster, whereby those affected experience the stressful event again and again through suddenly shooting memories or repeated nightmares, reports the research team led by Professor Dominik Bach from the University of Zurich. This psychological injury cannot always be successfully treated with psychotherapy. For a long time, therefore, there had been a search for a way to influence the trauma memory with medication. However, the possibilities that have so far been tested in animal models have not been applicable to humans or have proven to be insufficiently effective.

Memory of a negative experience significantly weakened
The researchers at the Psychiatric University Clinic and the University of Zurich have now successfully tested the use of a drug that significantly weakens the memory of a negative experience in humans. The scientists took a new approach in their investigations. She examined how the inhibition of an enzyme important for memory formation affects traumatic memories. Because it has recently become known from laboratory tests that proteins from the space between nerve cells, the extra-cellular matrix, are required for memory formation, the scientists explain. The activity of these proteins is inhibited by the antibiotic doxycycline.

Metalloproteinases inhibited by antibiotics
According to the researchers, the corresponding enzymes, so-called metalloproteinases, can be found throughout the body and, for example, play a role in the development of heart diseases and various types of cancer. The antibiotic doxycycline inhibits the activity of these enzymes and has already been tried and tested for the treatment of several of these diseases. The Zurich researchers have now tested how doxycycline affects memory formation. The effect of the drug was checked on the basis of almost 80 test subjects who were divided into an experimental and control group.

Less fright when taking doxycycline
In the experiments, the subjects received slightly painful electrical stimuli that they learned to associate with a specific color, the researchers report. In addition, the subjects in the experimental group previously received 200 milligrams of doxycycline, while the participants in the control group took a placebo. According to the researchers, in the control group, the test subjects showed an increased startling reaction seven days later when they saw the corresponding color. Here, the test subjects in the experimental group had a shock reaction that was around two thirds weaker, according to study leader Dominik Bach. “This is the first time that we have shown that doxycycline weakens emotional memory if it is taken before a negative event,” emphasizes the Zurich expert.

Doxycycline can already be used today
According to the researchers, the results show that "metalloproteinases can not only be used as tools in the laboratory, but are also relevant for memory development in humans." According to the study leader, there are also important starting points for developing therapeutically effective substances . In addition, doxycycline could "already be used with today's knowledge to dampen existing emotional memories - if patients wanted it," explains Professor Bach. For a corresponding treatment, according to the researchers, “existing trauma memories in psychotherapy are specifically activated and then weakened by the administration of doxycycline. (fp)

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