Chinese doctors have warned male COVID-19 sufferers to have their fertility tested when they are recovered.
This is because they believe that coronavirus may damage testicle function.
So far, no studies have found that the virus does reduce fertility or cause impotency in men.
However, medics in Wuhan, where the disease originated, are suggesting that the infection has an effect in sperm production and the formation of male sex hormones.
While coronavirus predominantly targets the respiratory and immune systems, in theory it could affect the reproductive ability of males, says Muhan’s Tongji Hospital.
Professor Li Yufeng and his team at the hospital’s Centre for Reproductive Medicine made the comments yesterday.
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The hospital is one of those chosen by the government to treat patients with coronavirus in Wuhan.
According to disease experts, the new coronavirus – known as SARS-CoV-2 – causes tissue damage in human cells by binding a spike protein to a protein in the cell membrane – called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
This enzyme, ACE2, is present in the lungs and other organs within the human body.
It is abundant in the male testes and can be concentrated in cells which affect fertility like the germ cells, supporting cells and Leydig cells, say the team.
During the SARS epidemic, which affected 26 countries, in 2002 and 2003, medics noted serious immune system damage to some patients testicles.
While experts have not detected the SARS-CoV in patients reproductive organs they could suffer from inflammation.
COVID-19 is remarkably similar to the 2002 SARS coronavirus.
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Since they both share the same host-cell receptor, ACE2, the new coronavirus could affect the testicles similarly.
The hospital report said: “Therefore, for men who have had the infection, especially those who need to reproduce, it is best to undergo relevant fertility tests, such as sperm quality and hormone level tests, upon recovery to detect possible problems as soon as possible”
The COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
- World Health Organisation
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