COVID-19 Infection in Males Leads to Damage and Reduced Function of Testes

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the initial strain of virus that causes coronavirus (COVID-19) has been discovered to cause damage to the testes (leading to a reduction in their function of storing healthy sperms), as well as changes in hormonal levels and functions, alongside the usual pneumonia symptoms. This effect has also been discovered in the other variants of this virus strain, such as omicron and delta variants.

SARS-CoV-2 Causes Testicular Damage

SARS-CoV-2 Causes Testicular Damage. Credit: Oxford Academic

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This was recently discovered by researchers at the Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong, in their study involving the species of rodents, known as hamsters. The research was led by Professor Kwok-Yung Yen, who stated that one of the aspects to be given critical attention to in a male who is recovering from COVID-19, is his reproductive life – as the team has observed that the infection is linked to a defect of the reproductive system, resulting to lack of function of the testes.

The study

The researchers carried out the study using male hamsters. They divided the animals into two groups and tested for changes in testicular function, and hormonal changes in both groups: to one group, they delivered strains of the virus through the nose of the animals; to the other (the control group), they delivered strains of the influenza virus and observed both groups of animals for several months.

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After about four to seven days, they found that the group of hamsters to which the strain of the virus was injected had acute low sperm count and serum testosterone; they also developed atypical pneumonia. This group of hamsters also came down with testicular atrophy (loss in function of the testes) and reduced weight and size of their testes. On observing their sex hormone levels, they discovered a drastic reduction in the serum sex hormonal levels in this group of animals, 42 to 120 days after the virus infection. Other reproductive disorders, including the death of cells of the seminiferous tubules, acute orchitis (inflammation of the testes), bleeding, and interruption of the sperm production process (spermatogenesis) were also noted and were seen to gradually occur persistently, from 7 to 120 days after the infection.

Meanwhile, no observation of testicular disorder, hormonal changes, or other reproductive diseases were taken in the second group of hamsters. This result made the researchers come to their conclusion that COVID-19 infection in males greatly affects their gonads, and sex hormone levels. They ran the same research using two other variants of the virus – omicron and delta variants – and they recorded the same results. However, they discovered also that the use of the coronavirus vaccines seemed to prevent these complications.

Read Also: Male Fertility: Should Men Go For Reproductive Tests After Overcoming Coronavirus?

Clinical significance

The revelation from this study will make people, especially male patients, to be more open to receiving the coronavirus vaccines, since it has been linked to the prevention of such complications in males with the coronavirus infection.

Conclusion

This study reveals damage and reduced function of testes, low sperm count, and reduction in sex hormone level, as complications of COVID-19 infection in men; in addition, letting it be known that vaccination is a preventive strategy of these such complications.

Read Also: Coronavirus: Possible Routes by Which SARS-Cov-2 Could Be Entering the Brain

References

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections by intranasal or testicular inoculation induces testicular damage preventable by vaccination in golden Syrian hamsters

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