Can COVID-19 damage sperm cells?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2. The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. The virus primarily affects the lungs, as we also see in typical influenza during the winter period. Still, the coronavirus can also enter other human organs that possess the entry protein that the virus uses to enter cells (ACE2). But should you fear COVID-19 when it comes to male fertility, and what do we know from other infections that could help us elucidate on this?
An early report from Chinese doctors in the Wuhan province suggested that the virus could cause testicular damage. The small report was not enough to draw any conclusions. Therefore, only a few hours after uploading, they deleted it. This means that currently, there is no clear evidence that the infection damages the male reproductive system.
We also know that many different factors both inside and outside the human body affects the sperm production. Scientific papers show that infections that increase body temperature have a negative impact on semen quality. This is most likely a response to the increased heat, which harms semen quality. Interestingly, a case study from 2007 showed that fevers could have marked effects on not only semen parameters but also the sperm’s DNA . This was a relatively short-term effect, normalizing about two months after the fever.
Genital tract infections can affect sperm directly, while viruses or bacterial infections not entering the genital tract may lower sperm production due to the fever-effect . One of the most well-known virus-induced infections leading to infertility is mumps. Infection with mumps results in an inflammation of the testicles (orchitis), causing permanent damage.
But are there any permanent effects of COVID-19 on male fertility?
First of all, it is essential to say that there are many people who have become infected with COVID-19 that don’t show any symptoms or feel unwell. Secondly, researchers have so far confirmed that about 80% of those infected with COVID-19 recover from the disease without needing special treatment. At present, it is too early to conclude anything about the permanent effects of a COVID-19 infection on male fertility.
The fever-effect of a coronavirus infection is, if it occurs, most likely a short-term effect. This was demonstrated in a case study from 2007 where the semen parameters return to the pre-fever levels approximately two months after recovering from the fever .
What to do in case of any concerns?
You can evaluate your sperm health with a sperm test. An easy and accurate way of doing this could be the ExSeed at Home sperm kit. It includes five sperm tests. This way you can test your current sperm quality and track sperm parameters over time if you have any concerns.