The novel coronavirus may cause testicular damage and male infertility, Chinese experts found, suggesting infected men who want to have children or maintain the quality of their sex life take tests for semen quality and hormone levels.
For those with a history of COVID-19 infection, especially men with fertility needs, it is best to carry out inspections after recovery, according to an expert team led by Li Yufeng, a professor from the Center for Reproductive Medicine of Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province.
The report was published on the website of the hospital on March 10, and reposted by the official website of Hubei Province on Thursday. But they were later removed after the news went viral on Chinese social media.
The coronavirus could invade cells through the combination of spike protein (S protein) and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), causing tissue damage.
As well as the lungs, many other organs of the human body, such as the testes, small intestine, kidney, heart, and thyroid are affected by the ACE2, the team said.
Although the coronavirus mainly targets one's lungs and immune system, it can, in theory, impair a man's abilities to reproduce, according to Wuhan's Tongji Hospital.
The comments were made yesterday by Prof Li Yufeng and his team at the hospital's Centre for Reproductive Medicine.
Tongji Hospital, affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology, is one of the hospitals designated by the government to treat coronavirus patients since an outbreak started in Wuhan in January.
The male reproductive function could be affected, as a large amount of ACE2 shows up in testes, mainly concentrated in testicular spermatogonia.
Although no research has confirmed that novel coronavirus damages the testes and affects male fertility, it is highly similar to the SARS virus and these infections invade the same cell receptor, namely ACE2. The SARS virus infection can cause severe immune damage to the testes, causing orchitis and dysfunction of some reproductive-related cells.
Theoretically speaking, the COVID-19 infection may cause testicular damage, affecting sperm production and androgen synthesis, the team experts said.
The obstructed sperm production and androgen synthesis would then affect male fertility and eventually lead to infertility. The quality of sex life would be affected due to fading male secondary sexual characteristics and sexual function.