Objective: This study assessed thyroid function in patients affected by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), based on the hypothesis that the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19 may influence thyroid function and/or the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may directly act on thyroid cells, such as previously demonstrated for SARS-CoV-1 infection.
Design and methods: This single-center study was retrospective and consisted in evaluating thyroid function tests and serum interleukin-6 (IL-6) values in 287 consecutive patients (193 males, median age: 66 years, range: 27-92) hospitalized for COVID-19 in non-intensive care units.
Results: Fifty-eight patients (20.2%) were found with thyrotoxicosis (overt in 31 cases), 15 (5.2%) with hypothyroidism (overt in only 2 cases), and 214 (74.6%) with normal thyroid function. Serum thyrotropin (TSH) values were inversely correlated with age of patients (rho -0.27; P < 0.001) and IL-6 (rho -0.41; P < 0.001). In the multivariate analysis, thyrotoxicosis resulted to be significantly associated with higher IL-6 (odds ratio: 3.25, 95% confidence interval: 1.97-5.36; P < 0.001), whereas the association with age of patients was lost (P = 0.09).
Conclusions: This study provides first evidence that COVID-19 may be associated with high risk of thyrotoxicosis in relationship with systemic immune activation induced by the SARS-CoV-2 infection.