By Connor Boyd (Health Reporter for MailOnline)

BRITAIN — A £5 steroid reduces the risk of dying from coronavirus by a third in patients on ventilators, a major British trial has found.

In the biggest coronavirus breakthrough to date, dexamethasone was also shown to save the lives of a fifth of Covid-19 sufferers with moderate illness receiving oxygen. 

The results from the RECOVERY trial suggest the steroid can prevent death in one in eight ventilated coronavirus patients and one in 25 on oxygen.

Dexamethasone, which is given either via an injection or as a once-a-day tablet, becomes the first drug proven to treat the incurable viral disease.

It is commonly prescribed to patients with allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus and psoriasis.

The steroid prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation, a nasty side effect of coronavirus infection that makes breathing difficult.

In seriously unwell Covid-19 patients, the lungs become so damaged they struggle to take in oxygen and keep vital organs functioning. 

Scientists behind RECOVERY, led by Oxford University, are recommending all 400 coronavirus patients currently intubated in NHS hospitals are prescribed the drug.  

Professor Martin Landray, lead author of the study, said dexamethasone could have saved around 5,000 lives if it was used throughout the UK’s crisis.

He hailed today’s finding as the biggest breakthrough so far in the search for a Covid-19 treatment, adding: ‘If you were to design a drug that treats coronavirus, this would be exactly how you’d hope it works.’ (ia/MailOnline)