The steroid dexamethasone has been found to save the lives of one third of the most serious Covid-19 cases, according to trial results hailed Tuesday as a "major breakthrough" in the fight against the disease.
Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered the widely available drug to more than 2,000 severely ill Covid-19 patients.
Among those who could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, dexamethasone reduced deaths by 35 percent, and it reduced deaths of those receiving oxygen by a fifth, according to preliminary results.
Daily doses of dexamethasone could prevent one in eight ventilated patient deaths and save one out of every 25 patients requiring oxygen alone, the team said.
The trial included a control group of 4,000 patients who did not receive the treatment.
"Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19. This is an extremely welcome result," said Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.
"Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide."