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Tags Current Affairs

Higher level of stress hormones and COVID deaths

Date: 21 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Covid-19 patients with very high levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in their blood are more likely to deteriorate quickly and die, according to a study.



  • Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones. When used as a medication, it is known as hydrocortisone.

  • Cortisol is produced by the body in response to stress, but excessive levels (and low levels) are associated with various conditions.

  • The drug dexamethasone, which recent research has shown to reduce death rates in Covid patients, acts by imitating cortisol and reducing the production of cortisol.

  • In healthy people, cortisol levels are 100-200 nm/L when resting and nearly zero when we sleep. The new study was led by Imperial College London. The observational study covered 535 patients, including 403 Covid cases.

  • Cortisol levels in Covid patients were significantly higher (up to 3,241). Among Covid patients, those with a baseline cortisol level of 744 or less survived on average for 36 days. Patients with levels over 744 had an average survival of 15 days.

  • This is the first evidence that cortisol levels are a marker of the severity of the deadly virus that has seen millions die around the world since it first appeared in 2019. 

  • Over the study period, just under 27 per cent of the Covid group died, compared to just under 7 per cent of the non-Covid group.

  • The hormone may also play a role in vulnerability to COVID-19, progression from asymptomatic to severe disease and the role of psychological stress and mental health in these processes.

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