Scientists from the University of Oxford and the University of Southampton in the UK have found that giving hormone replacement therapy within six months of a recorded diagnosis of COVID-19 can lead to a reduction in mortality from the viral disease. The findings of the study were published in the journal Family Practice. While conducting the study the researchers examined the association between hormone replacement therapy or combined oral contraception use and the likelihood of death in women with COVID-19.
The scientists investigated combined oral contraception, which contains estrogen, as some recent observational data suggests that women taking oral contraceptives have a lower risk of acquiring COVID-19. The team used a retrospective cohort with medical records from the Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre primary care database. Moreover, the team identified a group of 1,863,478 women over 18 from 465 general practices in England.
According to the scientists, the Hormone replacement therapy was associated with a 22 percent reduction in all-cause mortality in COVID-19. This suggests that estrogen may contribute a protective effect against COVID-19 severity.
“This study supports the theory that estrogen may offer some protection against severe COVID-19. We hope that this study can provide reassurance to patients and clinicians that there is no indication to stop hormone replacement therapy because of the pandemic,” said Christopher Wilcox, one of the authors of the research paper.
The researchers also found that although men and women are equally susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, men tend to have more severe infections. Meanwhile, earlier studies have also shown that women have faster and greater immune responses to viral infections.
Additionally, the researchers have observed similar data in previous pandemics, including the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) outbreaks.
“The reason for these sex differences is uncertain. Limited recent observational data suggest that estrogen may reduce the severity of COVID-19 disease,” the authors of the study noted.