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Experts Caution on Use of Steroids to Treat COVID-19 Patients in Africa

Dr Marybeth Maritim Cherono an infectious diseases expert based in Nairobi said people who use steroids have a higher chance of developing diabetes and also worsening those that already have the disease.

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Health experts have asked African countries to use steroids such as dexamethasone with caution while treating people infected with COVID-19.

Dr Marybeth Maritim  Cherono an infectious diseases expert based in Nairobi said people who use steroids have a higher chance of developing diabetes and also worsening those that already have the disease.

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The medicines, she said can also lead to insulin resistance noting that recent statistics show South Africa and South Sudan has the highest prevalence of diabetes and yet no specific studies have been done in those countries to establish what’s happening to those that are treated with medicines such as dexamethasone and recover.  Other countries including Uganda have adopted the use of steroids too.

Dr Bruce Kirenga one of the lung experts treating COVID-19 patients told URN in an earlier interview that dexamethasone has been effective in treating critical cases in the country.

Last week, the Ministry of Health announced that 80 percent of the more than 80 people in Uganda who have so far succumbed to COVID-19 were also battling diabetes.

Cherono said during a virtual meeting attended by different scientists in Africa involved in COVID-19 treatment that the trend in Uganda is not any different with Kenya and many other African countries. She urged them to start collecting data that can inform treatment options which put into account prevailing conditions on the continent.

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She adds that even as some patients are recovering, they stand a risk of worsening diabetic control in those patients, which could also worsen Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) situation in Africa soon.

The World Health Organization has approved that dexamethasone is used to treat critical patients who require oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Peter Horby a Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health who attended the meeting and was involved in the study done in the UK that first established that dexamethasone can save lives of critically ill patients, said the average age of patients studied was 67 years old and the benefit of treatment kept lessening with an increase in age.

Horby agreed that more data is needed to inform use in Africa.    

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