Researchers in England say they found a breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment with a cheap, widely-available drug that can improve survival by up to one-third among severely-ill patients in the hospital.

University of Oxford researchers announced Tuesday that the steroid called dexamethasone can decrease the risk of death by 35% among patients on ventilators after 28 days of taking the drug.

Hospitalized patients who don’t need breathing machines, only supplemental oxygen, have seen their chances of survival improve by 20% in the same time frame, researchers said.

“This is an extremely welcome result,” one study leader, Peter Horby of the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

“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. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

The study involved giving the drug orally or through an IV to 2,104 patients, who were compared to 4,321 receiving usual care.

The drug doesn’t appear to help those with moderate cases, but among those who are severely ill “countless lives will be saved globally,” said Nick Cammack of Wellcome, a British charity that supports scientific research.

Researchers believe that the drug could prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.

“COVID-19 is a global disease — it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide,” Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, according to the Independent.

With Post wires

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