Coronavirus: World's first 'breakthrough' treatment developed in Oxford

The world's first coronavirus treatment which could save thousands of lives has been described today as a 'major breakthrough'.

Trials of the drug, Dexamethasone, have been developed at the University of Oxford.

Researchers found the steroid reduced deaths by up to a third among seriously ill patients on ventilators.

For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

In Southampton and at Pfizer in Kent, research is taking place for drugs and vaccines.

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of deaths among seriously ill patients on ventilators were reduced by the steroid

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of deaths for patients on oxygen were cut by the medication

The steroid, Dexamethasone, has been used to treat all number of ailments from arthritis, to allergies.

It could now be the first treatment for coronavirus.

Researchers at Bournemouth, one of 175 hospitals to take part in the Recovery trial, say it's "momentous".

  • Laura Purandare, Head of Research, Royal Bournemouth Hospital:

The news about the discovery in Oxford dominated events in the House of Commons.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: "It's the first time anyone in the world has clinically proven that a drug can improve the survival chances for the most seriously ill coronavirus patients."

  • Health Secretary, Matt Hancock:

Our own bodies fight coronavirus through our immune system, but at a certain point the immune system does more harm than good.

Tom Brown, Queen Alexandra Hospital said it is a "difficult balance" to know the exact point at which to prescribe steroids.

He said: "The body's immune system is important for fighting infections, so it's always difficult to know whether suppressing the immune system is going to be beneficial or not."

  • Tom Brown, Queen Alexandra Hospital:

The recovery trial led by Oxford University is continuing, looking at other immune system drugs and anti-virals.

Prof Peter Horby, Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Oxford said the debate about the use of steroids in lung infections has been "going back and forth for decades".

"Previously there's not been a big enough trial to understand what's happening. Now from this big trial, with 6,500 patients we can see clearly, there's a group of patients who will benefit from this drug."

Prof Peter Horby, Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Oxford

The search for a vaccine continues.

  • Watch the full report by Sally Simmonds: