Researchers from Macquarie University, Sydney may have uncovered an interesting new use for tuberculosis treatment, D-cycloserine.

Further to antibiotic activity in treating tuberculosis, D-cycloserine partially attaches to nerve cell receptors responsible for nerve conduction strength and memory, and as a result, can enhance learning and memory processes. In the research study, it was administered to 35 children aged between six-and-14 who were living with extreme phobias of spiders and dogs.

Along with the administration of D-cycloserine, the children were exposed to the spiders and dogs they feared in an attempt to help them overcome their phobias.

Within a week of the dual-treatment, researchers found the children were better able to cope with their fears.

In an ABC interview, study researcher, Simon Byrne said, “The vast majority of the children in our study had improved and the good majority would be diagnosed as free at the end of the study.”

Although this form of treatment has been trialled on both adults and teenagers before, Byrne says his is the first study involving only children.

Beyond Blue defines a phobia as an irrational exaggeration of the danger associated with an object, animal or situation and on its website, describes how someone living with a phobia might react.

“Their feelings of panic, fear or terror are completely out of proportion to the actual threat. Sometimes the mere thought of the phobic stimulus, or the sight of it on TV, is enough to cause a reaction.”

Severe phobias, specific to a single object, animal or situation, also known as “specific phobias,” are estimated to affect around 11 per cent of the Australian population. 

Byrne forsees his study findings could potentially assist people living with other common phobias, such as heights, small spaces and flying.

Byrne and his colleagues’ research is set to be published in the journal, Depression and Anxiety.

Here’s a useful guide explaining the link between addiction and anxiety: