UK health experts have discovered a medical breakthrough that may prove to be an effective life-saving treatment for those afflicted by COVID-19.
The new treatment, a drug called Dexamethasone, is a low-dose steroid treatment that is part of existing trials to treat the global pandemic that has since taken the lives of over 430,000 people worldwide.
The drug is currently used to treat inflammation in other conditions, including arthritis and asthma. It has been found capable of stopping the damage caused by the coronavirus when the body is sent into what is known as a cytokine storm, which can happen when the patient’s own immune system attacks the body due to the viral infection.
According to the BBC, the drug is said to cut the risk of death by a third for patients who depend on ventilators to survive. For those on oxygen, it cuts deaths by one-fifth.
Researchers say that it could’ve saved the lives of at least 5,000 people in the United Kingdom if it was available for deployment from the start of the pandemic.
The BBC reports that the UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug presently available in its stockpile and plans to make it available to patients currently afflicted by the deadly virus.
At present, 19 out of 20 patients with the coronavirus recover without needing to be admitted to hospital, but many of those who require more critical intervention require oxygen or ventilation to survive.
In trials performed by a team from Oxford University, Dexamethasone is said to be able to help high-risk patients by reducing the effects of the cytokine storm. The trial consisted of 2,000 hospital patients who were given the treatment compared to 4,000 others, who were not administered the drug.
Patients on ventilators saw a marked increase in their survival rate, cutting the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent. Those on oxygen saw their survivability increase by a fifth, cutting the risk of death from 25 per cent down to 20 per cent.
"There is a clear, clear benefit," said lead researcher Prof. Martin Landray. "The treatment is up to 10 days of Dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient.”