MORE than 80 people from Gwent have been involved to date in a clinical trial that has highlighted the key role the steroid dexamethasone can play in saving the lives of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

And in excess of 1,300 others are currently involved in a further 16 trials designed to try to find effective treatments for the virus.

The Recovery Trial, is led by experts at Oxford University, It has involved around 2,000 hospital patients who were given dexamethasone. They were then compared with more than 4,000 who were not given the drug.

For patients on ventilators, it has been found that dexamethasone cut the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent.

And for those requiring oxygen, the risk of death was reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

Dexamethasone is a low-dose steroid that has been around for some 60 years and is used to reduce inflammation in conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

The results suggest that one life could be saved for every eight coronavirus patients on a ventilator, and one for every 20-25 on oxygen.

“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality, and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” said chief investigator Professor Peter Horby.

Of Gwent patients’ involvement in this and other Covid-19 trials, Professor Sue Bale OBE, research and development director at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said: “We continue to be at the cutting edge of research and year round the health board is involved in national and international research to find new drugs and treatments.

“We were one of the first sites in the UK to recruit patients onto the Recovery trial, which proved the effectiveness of dexamethasone as a treatment for Covid-19.

“To date we have recruited 83 patients onto this trial.

“People may also be surprised to learn that we are currently involved in another 16 trials to find effective treatments for Covid-19, to which we have recruited a total of 1,335 patients in Gwent.”

The health board is also one of a handful across the UK that is deeply involved in another crucial trial helmed by the Oxford Vaccine Group.

The Covid-19 vaccination study aims to find a safe vaccine that will develop immunity against the virus and thus prevent the disease.

The study aims to recruit 10,000 participants overall across the UK.

Five hundred health board staff in Gwent are being sought to volunteer to take part, and Professor Bale said that to date, more than 200 healthcare workers have signed up.

“We are immensely proud of our involvement in research as a health board,” she said.

“We’d like to thank patients in Gwent who volunteer to take part in trials, which can lead to benefits for them but also to millions of other people around the world.”