Researchers found evidence suggesting men who contract the COVID-19 coronavirus may suffer reduced fertility — from damaged sperm cells, according to a new study published in the journal Reproduction.
COVID-19 can reduce men's ability to reproduce
The COVID-19 illness can kill sperm and inflame testicles, which can damage the sperm production process and reduce males' ability to conceive children.
"These effects on sperm cells are associated with lower sperm quality and reduced fertility potential," said Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki — a doctoral student of the Justice Leipzig-University in Germany — MedicalXpress reports. "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 were also related to disease severity."
Men can contract the virus through direct viral invasion during sexual encounters, after which the virus begins to alter the reproductive processes needed to maintain sexual characteristics, according to the study. Once this has happened, "a secondary viral infection-induced inflammation response" can happen in the testes, and the nominal fever response to infection also interferes with healthy reproductive physiology.
Men's reproductive system should be considered 'high-risk' organ
"The above mechanisms often coexist and have a synergistic effect on mediating the impairment," read the new study.
These recent findings contribute to the ongoing study of COVID-19's effects, and show us that men recovering from COVID-19 might have a difficult time conceiving children — from abnormally-low sperm quality. Consequently, health professionals should continually monitor and analyze the reproductive functions of males after a coronavirus infection — so reproduction problems in the future might be avoided.
"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," added Maleki, MedicalXpress reports.
Men took greater interest in cryogenically freezing sperm
There are more extensive studies needed to validate this study's conclusions — and specify precisely how COVID-19 affects fertility and reproduction for men. But this very ambiguity adds to a pandemic-long series of studies hinting at a real danger for men's reproductive capacities after recovering from the virus.
While we don't know when more concrete answers will arise, there is a way around reduced fertility to which many men have already turned.
As of April last year, business had surged for companies that send men preservable sperm sample collection kits with return postage — with which men may cryogenically store viable human seed for later use.
Men may soon have options to resist COVID-19 effects
It's sad to see, but on a biological level, it seems males are suffering worse fates than women from the biological effects of COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University blog post.
"Around the world, on every continent, we're observing that men are significantly more likely to be hospitalized with severe COVID-19, and men are also significantly more likely to die from COVID-19," said Johns Hopkins biologist Sabra Klein in the blog post.
The future can appear grim for males — who are more likely than females to be hospitalized, die, and be left less fertile from a severe COVID-19 infection. But with scientists beginning to understand how the virus affects male reproductive systems, and vaccines circulating globally, we can finally say that men may soon have viable options to preserve their lives, and those of the next generation to come.