Previous studies have reported conflicting findings regarding aldosterone levels in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. We therefore used the gold-standard technique of liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LCMSMS) to address this uncertainty.
All patients admitted to Cambridge University Hospitals with COVID-19 between 10 March 2020 and 13 May 2021, and in whom a stored blood sample was available for analysis, were eligible for inclusion.
Aldosterone was measured by LCMSMS and by immunoassay; cortisol and renin were determined by immunoassay.
Using LCMSMS, aldosterone was below the limit of detection (<70 pmol/L) in 74 (58.7%) patients. Importantly, this finding was discordant with results obtained using a commonly employed clinical immunoassay (Diasorin LIAISON®), which over-estimated aldosterone compared to the LCMSMS assay (intercept 14.1 (95% CI −34.4 to 54.1) + slope 3.16 (95% CI 2.09–4.15) pmol/L). The magnitude of this discrepancy did not clearly correlate with markers of kidney or liver function. Solvent extraction prior to immunoassay improved the agreement between methods (intercept −14.9 (95% CI −31.9 to −4.3) and slope 1.0 (95% CI 0.89–1.02) pmol/L) suggesting the presence of a water-soluble metabolite causing interference in the direct immunoassay. We also replicated a previous finding that blood cortisol concentrations were often increased, with increased mortality in the group with serum cortisol levels > 744 nmol/L (P = 0.005).
When measured by LCMSMS, aldosterone was found to be profoundly low in a significant proportion of patients with COVID-19 at the time of hospital admission. This has likely not been detected previously due to high levels of interference with immunoassays in patients with COVID-19, and this merits further prospective investigation.