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Systematic investigation of a potential epidemiological and genetic association between male androgenetic alopecia and COVID-19.

Skin Health Dis 2021 December
BACKGROUND: Male androgenetic alopecia (AGA) has been implicated as a putative risk factor in severe COVID-19 based on high incidences of advanced AGA in male hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Research further suggests that androgen signalling, which plays a central role in AGA aetiology, promotes SARS-CoV-2 infection and is associated with severe COVID-19 symptoms in men.

OBJECTIVES: We aimed to systematically investigate a potential association between AGA and COVID-19 both on an epidemiological and a genetic level in a large single-population cohort.

METHODS: We performed regression, genetic correlation and polygenic risk score (PRS) analyses using data from the UK Biobank and published GWAS data on AGA and COVID-19.

RESULTS: Our analyses did not reveal any significant epidemiological or genome-wide genetic association between AGA and severe COVID-19. Pathway-based PRS analyses however revealed a significant association in specific pathways, namely vitamin metabolism, natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity, WNT signalling and aryl hydrocarbon receptor signalling.

LIMITATIONS: We restricted our analyses to the white British population and used self-reported AGA status. Sample size may be a limitation in our regression and PRS analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data yield no evidence for an epidemiological association between AGA and COVID-19 but suggest that a shared genetic basis for both traits exists in specific pathways.

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