The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has changed life as we know it, perhaps forever. With over 8 million people infected and over four lakh death across the globe, the world has been living in collective anxiety and uncertainty since the past few months. While healthcare workers have been working overtime to keep people alive, no drug has been known to be effective to fight off the virus–until now.
On Tuesday, researchers at the University of Oxford announced that an inexpensive steroid drug, dexamethasone, has shown promising results. According to them, Dexamethasone may cut the risk of death from coronavirus by a third for patients on ventilators, having an “immediate impact” on how doctors treat severe cases. For patients who are on oxygen, the risk of death can be cut down by a fifth. The research is still in its early phases, but medical experts are optimistic about it.
Dexamethasone is a steroid and available in the form of tablets, an oral solution, eye drops, or ear drops. According to Healthline, it is often prescribed to dogs with inflammation or some cancers. In humans, it’s taken for conditions related to inflammation, immune system activity, and hormone deficiencies. Additionally, it can also be prescribed to help with rheumatoid arthritis, severe allergies, kidney problems, colitis, and flare-ups of multiple sclerosis, reports Mayo Clinic.
Inflammation is a condition that causes the body’s immune system to overreact, which damages the body’s tissues. A drug like Dexamethasone can protect the body’s immune system from that. Another important thing to note is that it is easily available and cheap, which means it will be accessible to the masses.
According to medical experts, Dexamethasone can help protect your immune system from overreacting and attacking their own lungs and bodies. This condition is called the “cytokine storm,” and it’s a known issue when it comes to severe cases of the disease. The BBC reported that if the treatment had been used to help patients in the U.K. from the beginning of the outbreak, it could have saved 5,000 lives.
Of course, every drug comes with its fair share of side-effects, and Dexamethasone is no exception. According to Healthline, its minor side effects include issues such as nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, headaches, mood changes, anxiety, dizziness, and high blood pressure. The more serious side effects can be infections, unusual bleeding or bruising, blood in the urine or stool, and allergic reactions.
It’s far too early in the stages of research to say that, according to experts. Some researchers on the project are concerned that when it comes to Covid-19, the suppression of the immune system may leave the body unable to fully fend off the disease itself.
It is also important to note that Dexamethasone has no effect whatsoever on patients with mild cases of coronavirus. However, it can significantly increase chances of survival in critical patients.
And that, experts believe, makes it a major breakthrough.
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