Covid can impair men's fertility: Study
While many people who recover from Covid-19 experience long-term symptoms, such as brain fog or heart problems, increasing evidence suggests that the virus can also impair fertility in men.
The pilot study, led by a team of researchers at Jaslok Hospital and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, suggests that even mild or moderate illness caused by Covid could change the levels of proteins related to male reproductive function.
Recent evidence has indicated that Covid infection can reduce male fertility, and the virus has been detected in male reproductive organs.
To explore, the team analysed protein levels in semen of 17 men who recovered from Covid and compared it with the semen of 10 healthy men. None of the men, who ranged in age from 20 to 45, had a prior history of infertility.
In the paper reported in the journal ACS Omega, the team noted that the recovered men had significantly reduced sperm count and motility, and fewer normally shaped sperm, than men who hadn't had Covid-19.
When the researchers analysed semen proteins using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, they found 27 proteins at higher levels and 21 proteins at lower levels in Covid-19-recovered men compared with the control group.
Many of the proteins were involved in reproductive function. Two of the fertility-related proteins, semenogelin 1 and prosaposin, were present at less than half their levels in the semen of the Covid-19-recovered group than in the semen of controls.
These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 has direct or indirect effects on male reproductive health that linger after recovery, said researchers including Firuza Parikh and Rajesh Parikh at Jaslok Hospital and Sanjeeva Srivastava from IIT-B.
The work might also reveal insights into the pathophysiology of human reproduction in recovered men, they added.
However, they noted that larger studies should be done to confirm these findings, and a control group of men who recently recovered from other flu-like illnesses should be included to ensure that the findings are specific for Covid.