WHO: Steroid treatment a life-saving scientific breakthrough

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GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday hailed as a "life-saving scientific breakthrough" the British use of a basic steroid to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients, saving about a third of them.

"This is great news and I congratulate the government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this life-saving scientific breakthrough," WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Up to now, there has been no effective treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus which has claimed more than 440,000 lives since it first appeared in China in December.

But Tuesday's report of the powerful treatment for the coronavirus brought scepticism along with optimism among US doctors.

They said the recent withdrawal of an influential Covid-19 study left them wanting to see more data.

Global pressure to find a cure or vaccine has accelerated the process of reporting coronavirus study results, feeding confusion over whether therapies have been proven effective.

One influential Covid-19 study was withdrawn this month by respected British medical journal The Lancet over data concerns.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, used to fight inflammation in other diseases, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.

British scientists announced the results and said they would work to publish full details as soon as possible.

Dr Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, said: "We have been burned before, not just during the coronavirus pandemic but even pre-Covid, with exciting results that when we have access to the data are not as convincing." - AFP, REUTERS