A new study, published online last week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, has found that certain steroids used for the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as allergies, asthma, and arthritis could increase the risk of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Certain types of steroids, such as glucocorticoids, suppress the immune system, making people vulnerable to catch the virus.
Researchers explained that people who take glucocorticoids may also have severe illnesses if they are infected by the new coronavirus because the drugs suppress the body’s steroid response to the infection.
The journal’s editor-in-chief Dr. Paul Stewart of the University of Leeds, England, and deputy editors Dr. Ursula Kaiser of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Dr. Raghavendra Mirmira of the University of Chicago conducted the study.
The researchers said, “People with primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease) and secondary adrenal insufficiency occurring in hypopituitarism should also take extra precautions.”
Patients should increase their oral glucocorticoid dose by twice if they experience symptoms such as fever and persistent dry cough. They should continue doing so until the fever subsides. If their condition worsens, they will require injectable glucocorticoids.
The authors wrote, “People with diabetes who contract COVID-19 also appear to be at risk of more severe illness than those without diabetes.”
Studies from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, found that COVID-19 patients with hypertension and diabetes were at increased risk of severe illness and death.
Dr. Stewart and his team wrote, “In our professional lives, we have not witnessed a health care crisis of this magnitude and severity.”
They also noted that scientists have learned how the novel coronavirus enters the cells and how it spreads from person to person.
Some researchers have even found how the virus interacts with the endocrine system. The authors wrote, “Endocrine-related targets are at the forefront of discovery science as we collectively tackle this pandemic.”