Thyroid. 2022 Jun 23. doi: 10.1089/thy.2022.0243. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Thyroid dysfunction has been observed among some patients with COVID-19. It is unclear whether SARS-CoV-2 infection (or its severity) leads to the development of thyroid dysfunction, or vice versa. In this study, we examined the bi-directional causal relationship between host genetic liability to three COVID-19 phenotypes (including SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalized and severe COVID-19) and three thyroid dysfunction traits [including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD)] and three continuous traits of thyroid hormones [including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4) within reference range, and TSH in full range].
METHODS: Summary statistics from the largest available meta-analyses of human genome-wide association studies were retrieved for the following variables: SARS-CoV-2 infection (n=1,348,701), COVID-19 hospitalization (n=1,557,411), severe COVID-19 (n=1,059,456), hyperthyroidism (n=51,823), hypothyroidism (n=53,423), AITD (n=755,406), TSH within reference range (n=54,288), FT4 within reference range (n=49,269), and TSH in full range (n=119,715). Using a two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) approach, the inverse-variance weighted (IVW) method was adopted as the main MR analysis. Weighted median, contamination mixture, MR-Egger, and MR-PRESSO methods were applied as sensitivity analyses.
RESULTS: Host genetic susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection was causally associated with hypothyroidism in the main IVW analysis (per doubling in prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, Odds Ratio (OR)=1.335; 95% CI: 1.167-1.526; p=2.4×10-5, surpassing the Bonferroni multiple-testing threshold). Similar causal estimates were observed in the sensitivity analyses (weighted median: OR=1.296; 95% CI: 1.066-1.575; p=9×10-3; contamination mixture: OR=1.356; 95% CI: 1.095-1.818; p=0.013; MR-Egger: OR=1.712; 95% CI: 1.202-2.439; p=2.92×10-3, and MR-PRESSO: OR=1.335; 95% CI: 1.156-1.542; p=5.73×10-4). Host genetic liability to hospitalized or severe COVID-19 was not associated with thyroid dysfunction or thyroid hormone levels. In the reverse direction, there was no evidence to suggest that genetic predisposition to thyroid dysfunction or genetically determined thyroid hormone levels altered the risk of the COVID-19 outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: This bi-directional MR study supports that host response to SARS-CoV-2 viral infection plays a role in the causal association with increased risk of hypothyroidism. Long-term follow-up studies are needed to confirm the expected increased hypothyroidism risk.