Coronavirus patients at Great Western Hospital will be among those helping to find a cure for the virus that has so far claimed more than 4,000 lives across the country.

The Swindon hospital is taking part in the University of Oxford-led clinical trial, testing drugs more commonly used to treat HIV and malaria.

So far two patients who have tested positive for coronavirus at GWH have signed up to be involved in the study. Many more are expected to take part.

Dr Badri Chandrasekaran, a consultant heart doctor and director of research at the Swindon hospital, said: “These are unprecedented times and the more information that we have about how we can treat people and reduce the adverse consequences the better.

“Given the severity of this situation the national agency that runs research has made it easier for us to set up and start trials as soon as possible. We have a team here that is very keen to help.”

The Oxford study will test four different treatments. They include a type of steroid, aimed at tackling one of the main effects of the virus – inflammation of the lungs. Interferon drugs, used to treat hepatitis, an anti-HIV pill and anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine will also be tested.

Everyone who tests positive for coronavirus at the Great Western Hospital will be asked if they wish to participate in the study.

If they do, they will be given one of the treatments and their progress monitored. They will not know which treatment they receive.

The challenge for doctors in the UK is that the drugs, which have been chosen as evidence from elsewhere in the world suggested they may be effective in tackling the virus, are not as readily available as they once were.

Dr Chandrasekaran said: “These are not new drugs. The media has been rife with stories about this and supplies of these drugs are running low, so we’re trying to source those medications we want.

“The trial will be run as long as the Covid-19 crisis goes on.

“It’s hard to say I’m excited, but I’m relieved that we’re able to offer patients treatment. I’m very excited the team is able to get the study running given how hard they’re working.”

He said the hospital was involved in two other coronavirus trials. A World Health Organisation-backed study will look at how people respond to the virus, while another – run by the University of Sheffield – examines the different ways hospital emergency departments set themselves up to deal with the pandemic.

Dr Chandrasekaran warned that epidemics like coronavirus could continue. “Unfortunately, because of globalisation or the way we live and the world as it is, this is not going to be an isolated event. We’re going to have epidemics and pandemics and we’re going to have to deal with them. Through human history the number of people dying from pandemics has reduced as medical technologies have evolved.”