A new study has found that COVID-19 can affect sperm quality and reduce fertility in men. Researchers claimed that the virus can cause increased sperm cell death, inflammation and so-called oxidative stress, in journal Reproduction on Friday.
"These findings provide the first direct experimental evidence that the male reproductive system could be targeted and damaged by COVID-19," said the authors.
The same receptors the virus uses to access lung tissue are also found in the testicles. But the effects of the virus on the ability of men to reproduce remained unclear.An analysis conducted at 10-days intervals for 60 days in 84 men with COVID-19 was compared to the data of 105 healthy men. In the COVID-19 patients, sperm cells showed a significant increase in markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, a chemical imbalance that can damage DNA and proteins in the body.
Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki and Bakhtyar Tartibian from Justus-Liebig-University in Germany searched for biological markers that might indicate a negative impact on fertility."These effects on sperm cells are associated with lower sperm quality and reduced fertility potential," said Maleki in a statement."
Although these effects tended to improve over time, they remained significantly and abnormally higher in the COVID-19 patients." The more severe the disease, the bigger the changes, he added. The male reproductive system "should be considered a vulnerable route of COVID-19 infection and declared a high-risk organ by the World Health Organisation", Maleki said.
Experts not involved in the study welcomed the research, but cautioned that more was needed before drawing hard and fast conclusions. "Men should not be unduly alarmed," noted Alison Campbell, director of embryology of the CARE Fertility Group in Britain