High estradiol and low testosterone levels are associated with critical illness in male but not in female COVID-19 patients : a retrospective cohort study
Male sex was repeatedly identified as a risk factor for death and intensive care admission. However, it is yet unclear whether sex hormones are associated with disease severity in COVID-19 patients. In this study, we analysed sex hormone levels (estradiol and testosterone) of male and female COVID-19 patients (n = 50) admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) in comparison to control non-COVID-19 patients at the ICU (n = 42), non-COVID-19 patients with the most prevalent comorbidity (coronary heart diseases) present within the COVID-19 cohort (n = 39) and healthy individuals (n = 50). We detected significantly elevated estradiol levels in critically ill male COVID-19 patients compared to all control cohorts. Testosterone levels were significantly reduced in critically ill male COVID-19 patients compared to control cohorts. No statistically significant differences in sex hormone levels were detected in critically ill female COVID-19 patients, albeit similar trends towards elevated estradiol levels were observed. Linear regression analysis revealed that among a broad range of cytokines and chemokines analysed, IFN-γ levels are positively associated with estradiol levels in male and female COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, male COVID-19 patients with elevated estradiol levels were more likely to receive ECMO treatment. Thus, we herein identified that disturbance of sex hormone metabolism might present a hallmark in critically ill male COVID-19 patients.