Estradiol and Progesterone in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

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    Tulane University
Updated on 27 June 2022


The purpose of this study is to determine to what extent a short systemic steroid therapy with estradiol and progesterone, administered early to hospitalized and confirmed COVID-19 positive patients of both sexes in addition to standard of care (SOC) can reduce the severity of symptoms and outcomes compared to SOC alone.


Coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-2), causing COVID-19, has killed over 2.8 million people globally, including 550,000 in the US as of March 2021. Although, the vaccination campaign is ramping up, vaccination hesitancy in the United States represents up to 25-30% of the population, and hospitalizations and deaths are still at the level of 2020. Apart from corticosteroids, most available therapeutic options are at best marginally efficient in reducing disease severity and mortality and extremely expensive. Therefore, the systematic investigation of clinically approved drugs is a priority in order to determine what does improve the disease and invest resources to go to full-scale production. Our current understanding of the disease is that COVID-19 deaths result from an inappropriate immune response with outpouring of pro-inflammatory chemokines leading to lung infiltration and hyperactivation of monocytes and macrophages producing pro-inflammatory cytokines (cytokine storm), resulting in lung edema, reduced gas exchange, and ultimately leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiorgan failure. Men with COVID-19 have a uniformly more severe outcome than women. In series from China, Europe and the U.S., COVID-19 mortality was consistently 1.5 to 2-fold higher in men than in women, suggesting that female biological sex is protecting women from COVID-19 mortality. It is established that women exhibit heightened immune responses to viral infections compared to men, which is at least partially due to the genetic benefit of gene dosage in X-linked immune-response genes. Ovarian steroids, however, also play a protective role. In New York City, among 5700 hospitalized patients, the female protection from COVID-19 mortality was observed at all ages, but was more pronounced in subjects under 50 years of age (18% mortality in women) compared to patients > 50 years of age (40.5% mortality in women), suggesting that ovarian steroids are involved in mitigating COVID-19 mortality in pre-menopausal women. Further, the analysis of electronic health records of over 68,000 COVID-19 patients revealed that estrogen therapy is associated with more than 50% reduction in mortality. The main female steroids, 17-estradiol and progesterone exhibit potent immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory actions via estrogen and progesterone receptors expressed in all immune cells, including epithelial cells, macrophages, dendritic cells, cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4+) and cluster of differentiation 8 (CD8+) lymphocytes, and B cells. Progesterone also acts partially via the glucocorticoid receptor. Together estradiol and progesterone produce a state of decreased innate immune cells production of proinflammatory cytokines, enhanced T cells anti-inflammatory responses and immune tolerance, and enhanced B-cell-mediated antibody production. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel recommends the use of dexamethasone 6 mg per day for up to 10 days or until hospital Discharge (whichever comes first) as standard of care (SOC) for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen but who are not mechanically ventilated and for the treatment of hospitalized patients who are mechanically ventilated. Remdesivir is SOC at Tulane for COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen but who are not mechanically ventilated. We believe that in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, a short treatment with the combination estradiol and progesterone, administered early and as a prevention in addition to SOC, will prevent or mitigate the cytokine storm while increasing antibody production and prevent severe outcomes, without side effects. Therefore, it will provide steroid immunomodulation without immunosuppression. The advantage of repurposing estradiol and progesterone compounds is the depth of knowledge regarding their clinical efficacy and toxicity that has accumulated from decades of clinical and basic studies. Estradiol and progesterone are widely available in hospitals, inexpensive, manufacturable to scale, and can be prescribed immediately.

Condition COVID19
Treatment Progesterone 200 MG Oral Capsule, Placebo injection and placebo pill, Estradiol Cypionate 5 MG/ML
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04865029
SponsorTulane University
Last Modified on27 June 2022

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