Could COVID-19 affect male fertility?

3 years ago

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Skepticism surrounds the publication of a study which suggests that COVID -19 can negatively affect male fertility. The study published in the journal Reproduction states that “This report provides the first direct evidence to date that COVID-19 infection impairs semen quality and male reproductive potential,” The data was gathered by examining the sperm of 104 fertile men without COVID-19 and 84 with the virus. Their sperms were analysed for 60 days at 10-day intervals.

The sperm of the men with COVID-19 showed a significant increase in inflammation and oxidative stress. Sperm shape and mobility were also negatively impacted. These led lead researcher Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, a doctoral student at Justus Liebig University Giessen, in Hesse, Germany, to conclude that, “These effects on sperm cells are associated with lower sperm quality and reduced fertility potential. Although these effects tended to improve over time, they remained significantly and abnormally higher in the COVID-19 patients, and the magnitude of these changes were also related to disease severity,”

However, CNN Health reports that several experts have responded to the study with skepticism. Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at The University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, has said that “the authors state that their data demonstrates that ‘COVID-19 infection causes significant impairments of male reproductive function’ yet it only actually shows an association.” However, he added that, “it’s not surprising that Covid-19 might impact the male reproductive system because ACE2 receptors, or the “same receptors which the virus uses to gain access to the tissues of the lung, are also found in the testicles.”

Dr Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College London, responded by saying that, “Being ill from any virus such as flu can temporarily drop your sperm count (sometimes to zero) for a few weeks or months. This makes it difficult to work out how much of the reductions observed in this study were specific to COVID-19 rather than just from being ill.”   Undoubtedly, further studies will be done. In the meantime, men who are concerned about fertility should be very cautious so that they reduce the risk of infertility.