The viral spike coat protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) engages the human ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) 2 cell surface receptor to infect the host cells. Thus, concerns arose regarding theoretically higher risk for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) in patients taking ACE inhibitors/angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonists (angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs]). We systematically assessed case-population and cohort studies from MEDLINE (Ovid), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews PubMed, Embase, medRXIV, the World Health Organization database of COVID-19 publications, and ClinicalTrials.gov through June 1, 2020, with planned ongoing surveillance. We rated the certainty of evidence according to Cochrane methods and the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. After pooling the adjusted odds ratios from the included studies, no significant increase was noted in the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection by the use of ACE inhibitors (adjusted odds ratio, 0.95 [95% CI, 0.86-1.05]) or ARBs (adjusted odds ratio, 1.05 [95% CI, 0.97-1.14]). However, the random-effects meta-regression revealed that age may modify the SARS-CoV-2 infection risk in subjects with the use of ARBs (coefficient, -0.006 [95% CI, -0.016 to 0.004]), that is, the use of ARBs, as opposed to ACE inhibitors, specifically augmented the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in younger subjects (<60 years old). The use of ACE inhibitors might not increase the susceptibility of SARS-CoV-2 infection, severity of disease, and mortality in case-population and cohort studies. Additionally, we discovered for the first time that the use of ARBs, as opposed to ACE inhibitors, specifically augmented the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in younger subjects, without obvious effects on COVID-19 outcomes.
Keywords: ACE inhibitors; angiotensin receptor antagonists; angiotensin-converting enzyme2; coronavirus; meta-analysis; renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.