COVID-19 and the pituitary

Pituitary. 2021 Jun;24(3):465-481. doi: 10.1007/s11102-021-01148-1. Epub 2021 May 3.


Background: Despite COVID-19 being identified as severe respiratory viral infection, progressively many relevant endocrine manifestations have been reported greatly contributing to the severity of the clinical presentation. Systemic involvement in COVID-19 is due to the ubiquitous expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, responsible for the entry in the cells of SARS-CoV-2, Several reports in humans and animal models showed a significant ACE2 mRNA expression in hypothalamus and pituitary cells. Moreover, higher mortality and poorer outcomes have been widely described in COVID-19 patients with obesity, diabetes and vertebral fractures, which are all highly prevalent in subjects with pituitary dysfunctions.

Aim: To review the main endocrine manifestations of COVID-19 with their possible implications for pituitary diseases, the possible direct and indirect involvement of the pituitary gland in COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 on the management of established pituitary diseases which can be already at increased risk for worse outcomes and on neurosurgical activities as well as vaccination.

Conclusions: Our review underlines that there could be a specific involvement of the pituitary gland which fits into a progressively shaping endocrine phenotype of COVID-19. Moreover, the care for pituitary diseases need to continue despite the restrictions due to the emergency. Several pituitary diseases, such as hypopituitarism and Cushing disease, or due to frequent comorbidities such as diabetes may be a risk factor for severe COVID-19 in affected patients. There is the urgent need to collect in international multicentric efforts data on all these aspects of the pituitary involvement in the pandemic in order to issue evidence driven recommendations for the management of pituitary patients in the persistent COVID-19 emergency.

Keywords: Acromegaly; COVID-19; Cushing disease; Hyponatremia; Hypopituitarism; Pituitary apoplexy; SIADH.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / physiopathology
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Diseases / epidemiology
  • Pituitary Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Diseases / therapy
  • Pituitary Diseases / virology*
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Gland / virology*
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity*
  • Virus Internalization


  • Receptors, Virus
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2