As medical professionals, epidemiologists, immunologists, and molecular biologists work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of the biology of this virus are being studied and as a result, new understandings are emerging.
It seems that patients with advanced disease that require intervention using a ventilator may be suffering from a hyper-active immune response. In such cases, the use of steroid-based anti-inflammatory drugs may prove efficacious.
An extremely encouraging report from the highly respected Science journal, Nature, has shown the results of a trial study using the proven steroid drug Dexamethasone.
According to the report, the results have indicated that, “An inexpensive and commonly used steroid can save the lives of people seriously ill with COVID-19, a randomized, controlled clinical trial in the United Kingdom has found. The drug, called dexamethasone, is the first shown to reduce deaths from the coronavirus that has killed more than 440,000 people globally. In the trial, it cut deaths by about one-third in patients who were on ventilators because of coronavirus infection.”
This study was expansive involving 2100 participants who received the drug at what is considered a low to moderate dose – 6 milligrams (mg.) per day for 10 consecutive days. The results from the patients were then compared to the results from 4300 patients who received standard care for COVID-19 infection.
Although the drug had no noticeable impact on patients showing no severe symptoms, the positive effect was most striking on patients on ventilators and even on those undergoing just oxygen therapy (not on ventilators) where the rate of death was reduced by 20%.
These are, indeed, encouraging results.