Coronavirus Could Cause Male Infertility

The coronavirus could cause infertility in men according to Chinese research that links COVID-19 to SARS.

Getty Image / BSIP / Contributor

It seems like everything causes infertility in men. Anything from pollution to plastic to non-stick frying pans to stress to smoking to alcohol to marijuana to obesity to diet. You might add the coronavirus to the list of things that cause infertility issues.

According to Chinese researchers, COVID-19 may negatively affect male fertility. Scientists are examining existing data on receptors, which “are special structures that can be found in cell membranes that bind to specialized molecules.”

Researchers are zeroing in on the host cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is found in Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as well as the novel coronavirus. ACE2 is located in the lungs and testes. The scientists pointed out that medical professionals observed damage to testicles in some male patients during the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003.

Professor Li Yufeng at the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Wuhan’s Tongji Hospital announced that COVID-19 may have a negative impact on fertility in men. The research was shared on the Hubei government’s website on Thursday.

The research stated that the coronavirus could cause “impairment of immune homeostasis in the testes,” and could cause orchitis, which is an inflammation of the testicles. This condition could reduce a man’s sperm count and possibly lead to infertility problems.

Another study by urologists at Suzhou Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University that was published in medRxiv said that the novel coronavirus may directly bind to Ace2-positive cells and damage a man’s kidneys and testicular tissue, possibly causing tumors.

“Clinicians should pay attention to the risk of testicular lesions in patients during hospitalization and later clinical follow-up, especially the assessment and appropriate intervention in young patients’ fertility,” the paper said.

Qi Guangchong, an andrologist at Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine in Shanghai, noted that it is common for viral infections to negatively affect the male reproductive system, the production of sperm, and the formation of sex hormones.

“Many viruses have been proved to affect male fertility, including those that cause hepatitis B and mumps,” Guangchong said. “A third of mumps patients develop orchitis, and in some cases the testes get smaller, leading to infertility,” he said.

The article advised men who had tested positive with the coronavirus and are thinking about having children to ask their doctor if it could have an effect on their reproductive system and fertility.

“Therefore, for men who have had the infection, especially those who need to reproduce, it is best to undergo relevant fertility tests, such as sperm quality and hormone level tests, upon recovery to detect possible problems as soon as possible,” the report said.

However, the article was quickly removed only a few hours later, according to the South China Morning Post. The Hubei government did not say why the article was removed.

There have been many medical professionals who have been critical of the findings. They point out that this is only theoretical and has not been proven with an actual medical study as of yet.

“At present it is somewhat premature to conclude from this study [that] COVID-19 will definitely affect male fertility, but it is useful that the authors have raised this concern so that researchers can in due course take a look at the fertility of those who were infected by COVID-19,” said Professor Allan Pacey, a leading expert in male fertility at the University of Sheffield in England.

So if you survive the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, there is a chance that the respiratory disease could also mess up your little swimmers.