A cheap and widely available drug called dexamethasone can help save the lives of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus, the BBC reports.
UK experts say the low-dose steroid treatment is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus.
It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.
The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.
Researchers estimate that if the drug had been available in the UK from the start of the coronavirus pandemic up to 5,000 lives could have been saved. Because it is cheap, it could also be of huge benefit in poor countries struggling with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.
About 19 out of 20 patients who get coronavirus get better without coming to hospital. Of those who are admitted to hospital, most also get better, but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation. These are the high risk patients that dexamethasone appears to help.
The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.