Mild to severe cases of the respiratory malady COVID-19 could result in reduced fertility in men, an Israeli study suggests.
Male COVID-19 patients with moderate disease saw a 50% reduction in sperm volume, concentration and motility even 30 days post diagnosis, Dr. Dan Aderka of the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, told the Jerusalem Post.
Aderka, whose study was published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, also said the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was found in 13% of the sperm of those screened.
Additionally, tests of 12 COVID-19 patients who had died showed moderate to severe changes in the testicular cells supporting sperm development and others producing testosterone, which induces sperm division and multiplication.
Aderka said he believes the connection between COVID and reduced fertility is due to the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to the ACE2 receptor on the surface the cell of the Sertoli and Leydig cells of the testis. The same receptors are on the cells of lungs, kidneys and hearts.
Sertoli cells support sperm maturation while Leydig cells produce testosterone.
Aderka said the coronavirus binds to the ACE2 receptors and destroys the cells, which causes infertility.
“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,”Aderka said. “It could be even more detrimental.”
Aderka told the Post that it was unknown if the effects on the quality and quantity of the sperm are permanent. More research will be needed and the same patients will need to be re-examined in six months and a year from now, which his team is planning.