Following a major clinical trial, scientists and researchers have reached a conclusion that low dosage of steroid ‘dexamethasone’ can reduce deaths by one-third in severely affected COVID-19 patients. With the whole world battling a long drawn battle against the pandemic, this can be seen as a major breakthrough. The positive news came when new data from UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY showed that giving low doses of the generic steroid drug to patients reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection. Also Read - Mohammed Shami Reveals Why he Will Have An Advantage Once BCCI Starts Camp

Interestingly, the low-cost, anti-inflammatory steroid is well known in the world of sport. Dexamethasone has been used for years by sportspersons to hasten their rehabilitation from injuries and recover from infections. But the drug is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) list of prohibited substances. However, its usage is allowed for out-of-competition athletes if they have the requisite Therapeutic Usage Exemption (TUE). Also Read - Why Kids Are Often Spared From Severe COVID-19, Reveals Study

Some notable sportspersons like Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos to Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei and, most recently, Indian javelin thrower Davinder Singh Kang, have been found positive of using this drug. Also Read - Coronavirus Latest Update: Has India Reached Community Transmission Stage Yet? Read What Health Ministry Says

Asian bronze-winning Indian javelin thrower Kang is currently under provisional suspension after returning positive for the substance in an in-competition test conducted last year.

In 2017, Spain-born Ramos had tested positive for the drug during the Champions League but was let off after offering an apology for the team doctor’s failure to disclose the medication he had taken.

The RECOVERY trial included over 11,500 patients, enrolled from more than 175 hospitals in the UK, noted a statement published by the University of Oxford on Tuesday.

In the trial, a total of 2,104 patients were randomised to receive dexamethasone six milligrammes once per day — either by mouth or by intravenous injection — for ten days, and were compared with 4,321 patients randomised to usual care alone.

Among the patients who received usual care alone, mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41 per cent), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25 per cent), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13 per cent), the scientists said.

They found that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients, and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. However, the researchers said there was no benefit from dexamethasone among the patients who did not require respiratory support.

Based on these results, the scientists believe that the drug could prevent nearly one death in the treatment of around eight ventilated patients, or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result,” said Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators of the trial from the University of Oxford in the UK.

“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients,” Horby said.