Coronavirus: What is dexamethasone and how does it work?

Coronavirus: What is dexamethasone and how does it work?
Coronavirus: What is dexamethasone and how does it work?

An anti-inflammatory drug called dexamethasone has been hailed as a ground-breaking treatment for hospital patients seriously ill with Covid-19.

A UK trial showed the drug could save lives - the first internationally to do so - and it can be used in the NHS immediately.

What is the drug?
Dexamethasone is a steroid - a medicine that reduces inflammation by mimicking anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the body.

How does it work?
This drug works by dampening down the body's immune system.

Coronavirus infection triggers inflammation as the body tries to fight it off.

But sometimes the immune system goes into overdrive and it's this reaction that can prove fatal - the very reaction designed to attack infection ends up attacking the body's own cells.

Life-saving coronavirus drug 'major breakthrough'
Dexamethasone calms this effect.

It's only suitable for people who are already in hospital and receiving oxygen or mechanical ventilation - the most unwell.

The drug does not work on people with milder symptoms, because suppressing their immune system at this point would not be helpful.

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