Male Fertility and COVID-19: are there any effects on male infertility?

Male fertility and COVID-19: According to a study conducted by German scientists, the coronavirus could have effects on male infertility. Indeed, it could alter the quality of the sperm. These findings need to be further researched before they can be fully confirmed.

COVID-19 infection is not only likely to cause damage to the lungs. Several studies have in fact highlighted the fact that these can also be cardiovascular or neurological.

Researchers from Justus-Liebig University have published a study whose findings point to another consequence of the infection; this time on male fertility. Their study published in Reproduction indeed claims that COVID-19 can affect sperm quality and reduce fertility.

Specifically, the infection leads to increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the sperm, leading to lower sperm quality.

What is the relation between male fertility and COVID-19?

Covid-19 could affect male fertility

According to the researchers:

“These results provide the first direct experimental evidence that the male reproductive system could be targeted and damaged by COVID-19, and suggest that male reproductive function should be assessed after infection to detect and avoid other fertility problems ”.

While several scientific teams already suspected that the male reproductive system could be vulnerable to infection; the effects of the virus in this specific case were not clear.

Researchers studied its effects on male fertility by evaluating markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, sperm death, and sperm quality.

Is the sperm quality altered?

Some men’s semen was studied for 60 days, with a new analysis every 10 days. The researchers then found that in the men who were infected, the sperm would be less concentrated in the semen; and would be likely to be more deformed and less mobile.

In addition, as written in the journal Reproduction and Ouest France:

« the markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in the sperm were twice as high compared to the control group ».

Results that remain to be proven

According to Prof. Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki; “These results also suggest that the male reproductive system should be considered a vulnerable pathway for COVID-19 infection and should be declared a high-risk organ by the World Health Organization”.

However, more studies must be carried out to prove these results. Indeed, certain indicators could alter the results of the study.

For example, patients with Covid-19 were treated with corticosteroids, antivirals, and antiretrovirals that can also impact sperm quality. Not to mention some patients who had basic, co-morbidities (such as obesity) that can impact male fertility.

Note that in general, severe viral infections can also have a temporary negative impact on sperm quality.

This is why, some scientists warn about interpreting this new data; as Alison Campbell; director of embryology at the CARE Fertility Group in Britain said: “Men should not be unduly alarmed.

There is currently no definitive evidence of lasting damage from COVID-19 to sperm or male reproductive potential.  » Future studies will therefore be needed to confirm the impact of Covid-19 on male fertility.

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