Coronavirus is known to have a multitude of effects and implications. This respiratory illness has a greater impact on people with underlying health problems or patients who are older in age. However, a new study published in the journal Reproduction has shown that Coronavirus can also impact the male reproductive system and weaken its fertility.
Let's find out how.
The study reflects that COVID-19 may affect sperm quality and reduce fertility in men. It also indicates that the coronavirus infection causes a rise in the killing of sperm cells, inflammation, and oxidative stress. This finally causes a reduction in sperm quality and eventually lowering fertility. This study also provides first-hand experimental evidence on male reproductive systems. However, it does not prompt us to jump to overboard conclusions in terms of fertility in the long term. Hence it is required that further analysis is undertaken to potentially gauge the intensity. It is also needed to reduce the impact of coronavirus on male fertility.
Possible mechanisms of Coronavirus affecting male fertility:
There are several co-existing mechanisms of the virus impacting the male system. One could be through the direct viral invasion of germ cells and direct sexual transmission. It could also be through the virus affecting the reproductive. Another possible mechanism includes transmission through a secondary viral infection that causes inflammation and affects the testes. Besides these, this could also be a consequence of the drugs used to treat the virus.
This after-effect of coronavirus may also stem from the fact that when the coronavirus outbreak began men were more vulnerable to it. Studies confirm this difference in catching the virus due to the difference in the biological framework of men and women.
What was the research analysis about?
Ph.D. student and Lead Researcher Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, and his team from Justus-Liebig-University began investigating the effect of COVID-19 infection on male fertility. The main parameters of this experiment were inflammation, oxidative stress, sperm cell death, and semen quality.
It was an analysis conducted on 84 men with confirmed infection of Coronavirus and 105 age-matched healthy controls. It was done at an interval of 10 days. Urology experts determined that men with COVID-19 had an increase in markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in sperm cells. It also showed that in several cases sperm concentration was reduced by 516%, mobility by 209%, and sperm cell shape was altered by 400%.
The researcher Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki remarked, "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 was also related to disease severity."
Behzad further adds, "The results from this study also suggest that the male reproductive system should be considered a vulnerable route of COVID-19 infection and should be declared a high-risk organ by the World Health Organization."
However, experts who were not directly involved with this study have certain milder comments. They anticipate that the situation is not as grave as it is considered to be.
According to Agence France-Presse, Alison Campbell, director of embryology at the CARE Fertility Group in Britain had some reassuring remarks. She commented that Men should not be unduly alarmed. She also said, “There is currently no definitive evidence of long-lasting damage caused by COVID-19, to sperm or male reproductive potential.”
What does this study prompt common people and health experts to do?
While there is visible confusion of data on how Coronavirus impacts the male reproductive system, the need of the hour calls for more extensive studies. It is hence required to conduct more experiments with longer follow-up times. This will ensure that the conclusions established by this current study are validated and backed up. An intricate analysis is also needed to determine how deep-rooted this problem is.
Another aspect this study prompts is the importance of keeping a check on reproductive health, especially for males. It comes to our notice that men recovering from COVID-19 may suffer from an unprecedented event of low sperm quality. Hence, it is indispensable for them to keep a constant check on their health. Constant monitoring and evaluation with the aid of health experts can be useful to detect and cure any kind of reproductive issues in the future years.