Long COVID in Patients With Mild to Moderate Disease: Do Thyroid Function and Autoimmunity Play a Role?

Endocr Pract. 2021 Sep;27(9):894-902. doi: 10.1016/j.eprac.2021.06.016. Epub 2021 Jul 6.


Objective: Post-acute sequelae of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or long COVID (LC) is an emerging global health issue. Fatigue is a common feature. Whether thyroid function and autoimmunity play a role is uncertain. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence and predictors of LC and the potential role of thyroid function and autoimmunity in LC.

Methods: We included consecutive adults without a known thyroid disorder who were admitted to a major COVID-19 center for confirmed COVID-19 from July to December 2020. Thyroid function tests and antithyroid antibodies were measured for all patients on admission and at follow-up. LC was defined by the presence or persistence of symptoms upon follow-up.

Results: In total, 204 patients (median age, 55.0 years; 95 men [46.6%]) were reassessed at a median of 89 days (interquartile range, 69-99) after acute COVID-19. Of the 204 patients, 41 (20.1%) had LC. Female sex (adjusted odds ratio, 2.48; P = .018) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 polymerase chain reaction cycle threshold value of <25 on admission (adjusted odds ratio, 2.84; P = .012) independently predicted the occurrence of LC. Upon follow-up, most abnormal thyroid function tests in acute COVID-19 resolved, and incident thyroid dysfunction was rare. Nonetheless, we observed incident antithyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) positivity. Although baseline or follow-up thyroid function tests were not associated with the occurrence of LC, among 172 patients with symptomatic acute COVID-19, symptom resolution was more likely in those with positive anti-TPO upon follow-up (P = .043).

Conclusion: LC is common among COVID-19 survivors, with females and those with higher viral load in acute COVID-19 particularly being vulnerable. The observation of incident anti-TPO positivity warrants further follow-up for thyroid dysfunction. Whether anti-TPO plays a protective role in LC remains to be elucidated.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; autoantibodies; autoimmunity; post–acute COVID-19 syndrome; thyroid function tests.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoimmunity*
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Thyroid Gland