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We’ve long known that certain types of viruses can cause serious problems for men, especially when it comes to fertility.
In fact, infection by the mumps virus can lead to sterility. And viruses such as Ebola and Zika also wage an attack on the male genital tract.
Yet, for the most part, men haven’t really had to worry about these issues, at least here in the United States.
After all, the MMR vaccine takes care of most of our concerns about the mumps and the chances of Ebola and Zika exposure are remote.
However, the same can’t be said about the virus that causes COVID-19.
Evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can negatively impact male sexual health and fertility has been stacking up day by day, month by month. Clinical studies now suggest that up to 20 percent of men infected with it experience symptoms related to male genital tract dysfunction.
But no one knew why until a team of researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine stepped in.
Beyond fever and inflammation
You see, most experts were writing off the sexual problems men experienced following a bout of COVID to damage caused by fever and inflammation.
But they didn’t have any proof to back up this belief.
So those Northwestern researchers decided to settle the issue for good.
The team used a PET scan to follow the spread of COVID throughout the bodies of rhesus macaques over time.
And while they expected to see the virus attack tissues of the brain, lungs and even nose, since COVID can cause a loss of taste or smell, what they found surprised them…
“The signal that jumped out at us was the complete spread through the male genital tract,” said lead investigator Thomas Hope, professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We had no idea we would find it there.”
Yet, the PET scan proved that in men, the virus that causes COVID-19 can and does attack and infect the prostate, penis, testicles and the blood vessels that supply the testicles.
“These results indicate that the testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, hypogonadism, reduced sperm count and quality and decreased fertility associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection are a direct consequence of infection of cells of the male reproductive tract and not indirect mechanisms such as fever and inflammation,” said Thomas Hope.
Monitoring sexual health post-COVID
As Hope points out, “Even if this is only a small percentage of the infected, it represents millions of men who may suffer from a negative impact on their sexual health and fertility.”
It also means that if you or someone you love is one of the tens of millions of men who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s vital to be aware of the problems it can bring down the road.
The researchers say that men who suffered a SARS-CoV-2 infection, especially ones who have had a severe case of COVID-19, need to monitor their sexual health and fertility. You should also talk to your doctor about ways to prevent complications and future problems from the infection.
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COVID infects penis, testicles and prostate – Technology.org