Menopausal women taking HRT may have increased protection from COVID-19
Published: 11th May 2020
Dr Louise Newson is working closely with NHS England and Professor Tim Spector’s team to assess the potential effects of oestrogen on reducing the severity and mortality from COVID-19. Many studies have shown that COVID-19 affects men more than women and we have also seen that, in women, the increased risk with age starts to become appreciable earlier than in men – this change appears to happen in the late 50s. We are currently taking a closer look to see whether this is related to the menopause.
The COVID Symptom Study is working to facilitate key research into the potential protective effects of hormonal therapies, like HRT or the pill, and COVID-19. Dr Newson and Professor Tim Spector recently recorded a webinar on oestrogen and COVID-19 which is available to view here. More than 3 million people in the UK have provided data via the COVID Symptom Study app, launched by researchers at King’s College London and health technology company ZOE. This is the largest group of participants contributing to COVID-19 research in the world. Unlike contact tracing apps, The COVID Symptom Study app focuses on gathering health data to advance research into understanding the disease and providing short and long-term clinical solutions for the Nation’s recovery. The COVID Symptom Study is an amazing resource that can answer a powerful question about the role of hormones in COVID-19 in a matter of days, which in turn can help the NHS save lives.
The COVID Symptom Study app has been updated to include specific questions about periods, hormone medications and menopause with the aim to better understand how hormones such as oestrogen might influence COVID-19 outcomes. The data will shed more light on the underlying reasons why there are sex-based differences in the response to coronavirus infection and the role of hormones in the disease as demonstrated in COVID Symptom Study data on hospitalisation.
Dr Newson is also collaborating with researchers at the University of Liverpool and a wider volunteer-force of around 600 front-line public health teams and researchers (CIPHA: Combined Intelligence for Public Health Action) looking at data from multiple sources to tackle COVID-19. Experts in infectious diseases, clinical pharmacology and public health are helping to explore the role of oestrogens in COVID-19 with data from COVID-19-specific apps, GP-record-access apps asking questions about COVID-19 symptoms and anonymised NHS data linked to COVID-19 monitoring systems such as ISARIC 4C. By understanding the differences between men, pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women in their risks of developing COVID-19 and suffering severe consequences – and how HRT and other medicines affect this – we hope to provide evidence for policy-makers and advance scientific understanding of sex hormones in infectious disease responses.
Dr Newson spoke to BBC News about her work with Zoe and The COVID Symptom Study. Watch the full interview here: