Since the novel coronavirus has only been around since late 2019, it’s hard to fully grasp the lingering effects COVID will have on people in the years to come. Although researchers and doctors need more time to uncover all the long-term effects COVID can have on those who’ve overcome it, recent studies have begun to explore how the virus can impact the body beyond the standard symptoms. This week, a new study found that the coronavirus could impact the quality of sperm and thereby men’s fertility, potentially affecting COVID survivors’ ability to conceive. While some experts note it’s too soon to tell, read on to find out what the latest study found. And to see what else you won’t be able to do going forward, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said We’ll Never Be Able to Do This Again.
New research out of Justus-Liebig-University in Germany determined that COVID may negatively affect sperm quality and reduce men’s fertility. The researchers behind the study said in a statement that their findings showed that the virus can cause “increased sperm cell death, inflammation, and oxidative stress, resulting in lower sperm quality and potentially reducing fertility.” According to their findings, sperm concentration, quality, mobility, and shape were negatively impacted by COVID. The researchers also concluded that the more severe the illness was, the more the sperm suffered.
“These effects on sperm cells are associated with lower sperm quality and reduced fertility potential,” Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki, lead researcher and doctoral student, said in a statement. “Although these effects tended to improve over time, they remained significantly and abnormally higher in the COVID-19 patients.” And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
While the study’s findings are startling, some experts have said to take it with a grain of salt. “I need to raise a strong note of caution in their interpretation of this data,” Allan Pacey, PhD, a professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, told CNN. “For example, the authors state that their data demonstrates that ‘COVID-19 infection causes significant impairments of male reproductive function’ yet it only actually shows an association.”
It’s also important to note that the study was small and was conducted for a short period of time. The researchers compared the semen of just 105 healthy men to that of 84 men with COVID. The participants’ semen was studied at 10-day intervals over the course of 60 days. As a result, skeptics note, the limitations of this timeframe prevent us from seeing how long-term these effects are on fertility. And to see if you’re safe from a severe case of COVID, check out If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From COVID, Study Says.
Since early on in the COVID pandemic, researchers have hypothesized about the potentially deleterious effects of COVID on men’s sexual and reproductive health. Multiple studies have come out suggesting sperm could be affected by the virus.
Just a week before this new study emerged, other research published by the journal Open Biology claimed that COVID could pose a “global threat to male fertility potential.” That study, which was conducted by Indian researchers, found various negative effects of the virus on men’s fertility, many of which overlapped with the most recent German study. The study cited tissue damage, interference with sex hormones and sperm production, inflammation, erectile dysfunction, and general stress associated with COVID. And for another COVID update you should know about, check out This Over-the-Counter Medication Can Kill COVID, Study Says.
It’s not uncommon for viruses to affect sperm count for some time, but it’s generally nothing to worry about. “Being ill from any virus such as flu can temporarily drop your sperm count (sometimes to zero) for a few weeks or months,” Channa Jayasena, MD, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College London, told CNN. “This makes it difficult to work out how much of the reductions observed in this study were specific to COVID-19 rather than just from being ill.”
Another recent report published in the journal Reproduction out of Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, also noted that “detrimental effects on male fertility have been reported during infections with Zika (ZIKV), mumps (MuV), and SARS-CoV-1 viruses, but the picture is less complete for COVID-19.” And if you’re preparing to get vaccinated soon, know that Dr. Fauci Says Doing This After Getting Vaccinated Is a Huge Mistake.