Sex differences in COVID-19: the role of androgens in disease severity and progression

Endocrine. 2020 Nov 11. doi: 10.1007/s12020-020-02536-6. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE: Throughout the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, multiple reports show higher percentages of hospitalization, morbidity, and mortality among men than women, indicating that men are more affected by COVID-19. The pathophysiology of this difference is yet not established, but recent studies suggest that sex hormones may influence the viral infectivity process. Here, we review the current evidence of androgen sensitivity as a decisive factor for COVID-19 disease severity.

METHODS: Relevant literature investigating the role of androgens in COVID-19 was assessed. Further, we describe several drugs suggested as beneficial for COVID-19 treatment related to androgen pathways. Lastly, we looked at androgen sensitivity as a predictor for COVID-19 progression and ongoing clinical trials on androgen suppression therapies as a line of treatment.

RESULTS: SARS-COV2 virus spike proteins utilize Transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) for host entry. Androgen receptors are transcription promoters for TMPRSS2 and can, therefore, facilitate SARS-COV2 entry. Variants in the androgen receptor gene correlate with androgen sensitivity and are implicated in diseases like androgenetic alopecia and prostate cancer, conditions that have been associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes and hospitalization.

CONCLUSION: Androgen’s TMPRSS2-mediated actions might explain both the low fatalities observed in prepubertal children and the differences between sexes regarding SARS-COV2 infection. Androgen sensitivity may be a critical factor in determining COVID-19 disease severity, and sensitivity tests can, therefore, help in predicting patient outcomes.

PMID:33179220 | DOI:10.1007/s12020-020-02536-6