Researchers in Europe say they have shown for the first time that the SARS-CoV-2 virus attacks the human stress system by limiting how our adrenal glands can respond to the threat of Covid-19.
According to a study, the coronavirus targets the adrenal glands, thereby weakening the body’s ability to produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline needed to help battle a serious infection.
Part of the body’s defence mechanism, these glands are indispensable for our survival of stressful situations, particularly with a coronavirus infection.
The research was published by a group of scientists in London, United Kingdom; Zurich, Switzerland; and Dresden and Regensburg in Germany, in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology last month (November 2021).
“The results of our latest work now show for the first time that the virus directly affects the human stress system to a relevant extent,” says Dr Stefan Bornstein, director of the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic III and the Centre for Internal Medicine at the University Hospital in Dresden.
Whether these changes directly contribute to adrenal insufficiency, or even lead to long Covid is still unclear, he says.
This question must be investigated in further clinical studies.
Pointing to recent research showing the effect of inhaling steroids to prevent clinical deterioration in patients with Covid-19, the researchers say certain drugs may be able to help limit this effect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“This evidence underlines the potentially important role for adrenal steroids in coping with Covid-19,” scientists at the University of Zurich say.
The researchers analysed the data of 40 deceased Covid-19 patients in Dresden and found that their tissue samples showed clear signs of adrenal gland inflammation. – dpa