London: The pandemic coronavirus is causing is causing the world a great amount of anxiety and fear leading to high levels of stress. But be careful and relax, don’t come under stress. COVID-19 patients with extremely high levels of stress hormone cortisol in their blood should be worried. A study in the United Kingdom has said that they are more likely to deteriorate quickly and die if infected by coronavirus. The study has been led by an Indian origin researcher in the United Kingdom (UK).
The study was published Thursday in ‘The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology’. It provides the first data to show that cortisol levels are a marker of the severity of the illness.
The researchers were led by Professor Waljit Dhillo from Imperial College London.
Cortisol is produced by the body in response to stress such as illness, triggering changes in metabolism, heart function. In such situation the immune system helps our bodies to cope, the researchers said.
Our cortisol levels when healthy and resting are 100-200 nm/L and nearly zero when we sleep. When ill patients have low levels of cortisol, it can be life threatening, they said.
According to the researchers, excessive levels of cortisol during illness can be equally dangerous. It can lead to increased risk of infection and poor outcomes.
In the new observational study of 535 patients were observed. Among them 403 were confirmed cases of COVID-19. The cortisol levels in patients with COVID-19 were significantly higher than in those without.
The levels in the COVID-19 group ranged as high as 3,241 – considerably higher even after major surgery, when levels can top 1000, the researchers said. Amongst the COVID-19 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 just 15 days.
“From an endocrinologist’s perspective, it makes sense that those COVID-19 patients who are the sickest will have higher levels of cortisol. But these levels are worryingly high,” said Dhillo. He is the head of Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Imperial College London.
“Having an early indicator of which patients may deteriorate more quickly will help us with providing the best level of care as quickly as possible,” Dhillo added.
In addition, he said medical professionals can also take cortisol levels into account when we are working out how best to treat our patients.