Coronavirus could cause infertility in men - according to a new study

By Claire Schofield
Thursday, 8th October 2020, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 8th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Coronavirus can destroy two types of cells in the testicles, a study has found (Photo: Shutterstock)
Coronavirus can destroy two types of cells in the testicles, a study has found (Photo: Shutterstock)

Men who suffer from severe cases of coronavirus could experience problems with fertility, a new study has warned.

Dr Dan Aderka, from the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, conducted the study and believes that the virus also impaired sperm motility, due to damage to testicular cells.

Reduced sperm volume and motility

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For the study, Dr Aderka screened healthy men for evidence of coronavirus and found that, in some cases, the virus had made its way into their sperm.

It was also found that there was a 50 per cent decrease in sperm volume, concentration and motility among patients with moderate coronavirus symptoms, even 30 days after their diagnosis.

Post-mortem tests of 12 Covid-19 patients also demonstrated moderate to severe changes in the testicular cells that support sperm development and those producing testosterone, the hormone that induces sperm division and multiplication.

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Dr Aderka said, “As normal sperm maturation takes 70 to 75 days, it is possible that if we are doing a sperm examination two and a half months after recovery, we may see even more reduced fertility. It could be even more detrimental.”

Destroying testicular cells

Coronavirus can destroy two types of cells in the testicles, sertoli and leydig, according to Dr Aderka. Sertoli is responsible for sperm maturation, while leydig produces testosterone. Coronavirus can bind to the ACE2 receptors on the surface of these cells and destroy them, as it can also do in the lungs.

He said, “Interestingly, an enzyme called TMPRSS2 assists the virus in binding to the ACE receptor, facilitating its internalization into the cells.

“This phenomenon may explain the higher Covid-19 morbidity and mortality of men compared to women.”

He also added that this may also explain the lower morbidity and mortality of children, whose testosterone levels are low.

Dr Aderka said it is still unclear if this effect is reversible, or if it is possible for men to recover over time. The Sheba Medical Center plans to examine the same patients it screened in six months and a year’s time to examine any changes.