Dr David Gaze, Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry, has written an article for The Conversation about dexamethasone as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
A research team at Oxford University has found that a cheap and widely available drug called dexamethasone can be effective in very severe forms of COVID-19.
Dr Gaze wrote: “In severe cases, the body’s immune system over-reacts to the virus and mounts an attack on the cells that contain it. This is known as a cytokine storm, where chemicals called cytokines are released by cells of the immune system, causing excessive inflammation. Dexamethasone acts on the immune system to dampen the response and reduce the cytokine storm. In effect, it prevents the massive inflammation seen in the lungs and the heart which are responsible for severe respiratory problems in very ill patients.”
He added: “Dexamethasone has been tested in the largest COVID-19 drug trial to date, the Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy or RECOVERY trial for short. As part of the trial, researchers studied the effect of the drug in 2,000 patients and compared that to the outcomes in 4,000 patients who did not receive it.
The results of the trial, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, show the biggest benefit was in those patients on ventilators, where dexamethasone reduced the risk of death by 30 per cent. For those requiring oxygen, there was a 20 per cent reduction.”