New Delhi: Medical inhalers or inhaled glucocorticoids that are commonly used by patients of asthma can possibly reduce risk of severe disease and hospitalisation in Covid-19 patients, a new study published in The Lancet journal has revealed.
Inhaled glucocorticoids are medicines that contain corticosteroids (drugs that lower inflammation in the body) such as budesonide, in a preparation that is designed to be inhaled through the mouth. They act directly on the lungs to inhibit the inflammatory process that causes asthma.
The Lancet study findings, by researchers from the University of Oxford, can explain why patients with chronic respiratory disease are less likely to end up in hospitals when infected with Covid-19.
Based on these reports, the Oxford team hypothesised that this could be due to the widespread use of medical inhalers in these patients.
Studies conducted in labs revealed that inhaled glucocorticoids reduce the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in lung cells, and also the expression of genes that facilitate the entry of the virus into the cell.
Inhaled budesonide leads to shorter recovery time: Study
The researchers conducted a clinical trial in the UK involving 146 participants recruited between July to December 2020. Half of the people assigned to the group were asked to use inhalers that delivered budesonide along with usual Covid-19 care.
The team found that inhaled budesonide, when given for a short duration of time, could be an effective treatment of early Covid-19 in adults.
They found that clinical recovery was a day shorter for the budesonide group compared to the usual care group.
Meanwhile, the proportion of days that a patient had fever in the first 14 days was lower in the budesonide group than the usual care group. Furthermore, the proportion of participants with at least one day of fever was lower in the budesonide group.
Patients who received inhaled budesonide were also less likely to report persistent Covid-19 symptoms beyond 14 days.
The researchers concluded that early administration of inhaled budesonide reduced the likelihood of needing urgent medical care and reduced the recovery time after early Covid-19.
This effect, the team said, is equivalent to the efficacy seen after the use of Covid-19 vaccines. It is also better than any treatments used to prevent severe disease in hospitalised patients.
(Edited by Rachel John)
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