Last updated on July 2020

In-vitro Diagnostic Test to Predict COVID-19 Mortality and Disease Severity


Brief description of study

The COVID-19 Androgen Sensitivity Test is a non-invasive In-Vitro Diagnostic device that utilizes Next Generation Sequencing Technology (NGS). The results of the test are used by a physician to assess the risk of developing severe symptoms following COVID-19 infection, The COVID-19 Androgen Sensitivity Test requires a health care professional to collect a DNA sample using an FDA cleared DNA sample collection kit.

Detailed Study Description

In late 2019, a novel coronavirus, subsequently named SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), was first reported in Hubei province in China. Since it was first reported, a worldwide pandemic has ensued affecting more than 450,000 individuals as of March 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, epidemiological reports unveiled a disproportionate low rate of severe cases among adult females compared to adult males, 42% and 58%, respectively. Similarly, the rate of severe cases among pre-pubescent children was exceptionally low at 0.6%. An explanation for the skewed prevalence of severe COVID-19 infection in adult males has yet to be elucidated.

In newborns, it has long been recognized that male infants are more susceptible to respiratory distress syndrome and less likely to respond to prenatal glucocorticoid therapy to protect against respiratory distress. Respiratory distress is intimately tied to the production of pulmonary surfactant, e.g., pulmonary surfactant proteins have been demonstrated to protect against influenza A. In animal studies, it was demonstrated that a sexual dimorphism in fetal pulmonary surfactant production is influenced by the androgen receptor (AR). For example, in rabbits, dihydrotestosterone was shown to inhibit fetal pulmonary surfactant production in both males and females while an anti-androgen, flutamide, was demonstrated to remove the sexual dimorphism in surfactant production. While severe COVID-19 symptoms are primarily manifested in older adults, the similar sexual dimorphism in the severity of respiratory disease is of interest. In addition, AR expression is low prior to pubertal maturation and may contribute to the low incidence of severe COVID-19 infection in children. As such, the investigators propose that the lower rate of severe COVID-19 infection in female patients may be attributed to lower androgen receptor expression.

Additional evidence to the possible implication of androgens in COVID-19 infection severity is found in the molecular mechanism required for SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. SARS-CoV-2 is part of the coronavirus family of viruses including SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV. Coronavirus predominantly infects type II pneumocytes in the human lung. Previously, it was demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 cell entry depends on priming of a viral spike surface protein by transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) present in the host. In type II pneumocytes, TMPRSS2 expression is associated with an increase in androgen receptor (AR) expression, specifically connecting AR expression to SARS-CoV-2, due to AR-regulated TMPRSS2 gene promoter. Moreover, angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been recognized as the attachment molecule to the viral spike surface protein, thus termed the "receptor of SARS-CoV-2". Interestingly, ACE2 has been shown to have reduced activity by the decrease of androgen hormones (experimental orchidectomy), possibly by decreased expression of ACE2.

A well known polymorphism of the androgen receptor is a CAG repeat in the first exon of AR gene. The number of CAG repeats has been correlated with AR function and expression. The primary purpose of this study is to evaluate the association of AR gene polymorphisms with disease severity and mortality following COVID-19 infection. If an association can be elucidated, it would imply novel treatment modalities. For example, the activation of AR can be reduced by several classes of drugs including androgen receptor antagonists, androgen synthesis inhibitors and antigonadotropins.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT04368897

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Recruitment Status: Open


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