New beginning: Steroids may save critical coronavirus patients says study

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New York: Researchers across the world are working against time to find a possible vaccine to fight against the coronavirus. Some of the vaccine candidates are in the phase II and phase III of human trials. Some of the researchers are also trying to find out alternative solutions for treating coronavirus patients. And a new theory has emerged for treating seriously ill coronavirus patients.

International clinical trials published Wednesday have raised hopes that cheap, widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill coronavirus patients.

Based on the new evidence, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued new treatment guidance Wednesday. The WHO strongly recommended the use of steroids to treat severely and critically ill patients. However, the WHO advised against the use of steroids on those who are mildly infected.

“Clearly, now steroids are the standard of care,” Dr Howard C Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of JAMA has been quoted as saying by the New York Times. The science journal has so far published five papers about the treatment of COVID-19 patients through steroids.

The new studies include an analysis that pooled data from seven randomised clinical trials. The trials evaluated three steroids in more than 1,700 patients. The study concluded that each of the three drugs reduced the risk of death.

JAMA published the findings of that paper. It also published three related studies. It also printed an editorial describing the research as an ‘important step forward in the treatment of patients with COVID-19’.

The authors of the papers said that ‘corticosteroids’ should now be the first-line treatment for critically ill patients. Till now the only other drug which has given a semblance of success for critically ill patients is ‘remdesivir’.

Steroids like dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone are often used by doctors to tamp down the body’s immune system. It should be stated here that a large number of COVID-19 patients do not die due to the virus, but of the body’s overreaction to the infection.

In June, researchers at Oxford University discovered that dexamethasone improved survival rates in severely ill patients. Researchers had hoped that other inexpensive steroids might help these patients.

However, it should be noted here that steroids can have harmful side effects, especially in elderly patients. The steroids may leave patients vulnerable to other infections. It may raise blood glucose levels and may cause confusion and delirium.

In the clinical trials, only the critical patients were treated with steroids. It is yet to be ascertained what are the effects of steroids on the not seriously critical COVID-19 patients. There are no findings whether the use of steroids on patients with mild infections will be harmful or beneficial. Also the exact doses and duration of steroid treatment has not been identified.

But overall, the scientists said, the new studies appeared to confirm the promise of this class of drugs for patients severely ill with COVID-19.

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