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ObjectiveEndocrine systems are disrupted in acute illness, and symptoms reported following coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are similar to those found with clinical hormone deficiencies. We hypothesised that people with severe acute COVID-19 and with post-COVID symptoms have glucocorticoid and sex hormone deficiencies.Design/patientsSamples were obtained for analysis from two UK multicentre cohorts during hospitalisation with COVID-19 (International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium/World Health Organisation [WHO] Clinical Characterization Protocol for Severe Emerging Infections in the UK study), and at follow-up 5 months after hospitalisation (Post-hospitalisation COVID-19 study).MeasurementsPlasma steroids were quantified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Steroid concentrations were compared against disease severity (WHO ordinal scale) and validated symptom scores. Data are presented as geometric mean (SD).ResultsIn the acute cohort (n = 239, 66.5% male), plasma cortisol concentration increased with disease severity (cortisol 753.3 [1.6] vs. 429.2 [1.7] nmol/L in fatal vs. least severe, p ConclusionsCirculating glucocorticoids in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 reflect acute illness, with a marked rise in cortisol and fall in male testosterone. These findings are not observed 5 months from discharge. The lack of association between hormone concentrations and common post-COVID symptoms suggests steroid insufficiency does not play a causal role in this condition.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical endocrinology

Publication Date



BHF/University Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen's Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh Bioquarter, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


ISARIC4C Investigators and PHOSP-COVID Study Collaborative Group