A recent study shows that COVID-19 may impact male fertility
Researchers examined tissue from the testicles of nine men and found that three had impaired sperm quantity and function. They also found coronavirus living in the testicles of one recovered patient more than four weeks after he recovered.
The study, conducted at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, suggests that up to 20% of male COVID-19 patients may end up with long-term fertility problems. Up to 50% of men may have short-term problems with their sperm health.
Dr Ranjith Ramasamy, associate professor and director of reproductive urology at UM’s Miller School, was the lead author on the study
He explains that the virus can bind to the organs, including lungs and kidneys. There is evidence it could cause permanent damage to other organs, including the testicles.
He explains, “the one thing that’s common between the two organs is the ACE2 receptor, the receptors to which COVID binds, is at very high density in those two organs.
What’s most interesting is actually that the testes has the most density for the ACE2 receptors..”
This prompted Dr Ramasamy to investigate testes and COVID-19 in his study, published in The World Journal of Men’s Health
After examining the testes of nine men. Three of the men were found to have impaired sperm function, including hypospermatogenesis. This is a condition that decreases sperm production. They also had maturation arrest, which prevents sperm from forming correctly.
Dr Ramaswamy explains, “so that was definitely surprising stating that COVID-19 will probably linger in these organs a lot longer even after men test negative for the virus.”
By the doctor’s own admission, this was an extremely small study, and all results need to be replicated in more extensive studies
He is also conducting a larger study that examines the sperm of 30 men. Initially, nineteen of the men had low sperm counts. However, most regained their sperm count in follow-up examinations. “I believe that for 50 percent of men will have their sperm impaired in the acute phase, in the short-term.”
Dr Ramaswamy explains that this is not an uncommon side effect of viruses
“I’m fairly certain, based on other viruses like HIV and mumps that behave fairly similarly in affecting sperm production, I think in the long term 10 to 20 percent could have impairment of permanent fertility.”
He urges men who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to see their urologists to measure their sperm counts
“In men who want to have kids in the future, or are thinking about fertility in the future…I think it’s reasonable to see a urologist and evaluate your sperm count.”
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