Science

Scientists discover ‘breakthrough’ treatment

A common steroid drug is seeing game-changing results as a treatment for COVID-19. What is it and what results is it seeing?

New hope has been ignited in the fight against coronavirus today as scientists in the UK reveal they have made a “major breakthrough” with a drugs treatment. The common steroid drug dexamethasone was shown to reduce death rates by a third for patients on ventilators, and by a fifth for patients needing oxygen. The results have been published from the Recovery trial which is assessing a number of different possible COVD-19 treatments.

Initial reports suggest the drug could have saved between 4,000 to 5,000 lives if it had been used earlier in the pandemic.

Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial, said: “This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost.”

His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone – a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation – is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly”.

Horby added: “It is a major breakthrough.”

What did the study entail?

During the course of the study, 2,104 patients received 6mg of dexamethasone once a day by mouth or intravenous injection for 10 days.

Their outcomes were compared with a control group of 4,321 patients.

Over a 28-day period, the mortality rate among patients requiring ventilation was 41 percent, and for those needing oxygen it was 25 percent.

Among those not requiring respiratory intervention the figure was 13 percent.

COVID-19 treatments – latest

The latest development comes a day after the announcement that a new drug for preventing lung damage and blood clots in people with coronavirus is set to be trialled in UK hospitals.

According to the research, which is backed by researchers at the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at Imperial College London, the drug, a molecule known as TRV027, could put a brake on many of the dangerous processes which occur in COVID-19, such as lung damage and blood clots.

The cell pathways targeted by the drug are thought to be major drivers of severe illness in COVID-19.

The pilot trial will involve 60 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, and will follow patients for eight days during the critical period where some patients symptoms worsen significantly requiring treatment in ICU and sometimes ventilation.

Dr David Owen, Senior Clinical Research Fellow and Clinical Pharmacologist at Imperial College London who is jointly leading the study said: “This virus poses a huge challenge for researchers because so much about it is unknown. In order to fight it, we need a team effort.

“This project has brought together pathologists, virologists, pharmacologists and researchers who usually focus on heart and circulatory diseases.

“Drawing on this range of expertise will give us the best chance of finding a desperately needed treatment for COVID-19.”

General tips for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for at least seven days from when your symptoms started, according to the NHS.

You can stop self-isolating after seven days if either:

  • Your symptoms have gone
  • You just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection has gone

As the NHS explains, keep self-isolating if you still have any of these symptoms after seven days:

  • A high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • A runny nose or sneezing
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite

“Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone,” notes the health body.

It adds: “If you have diarrhoea or youre being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they’ve stopped.”

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