Testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count and quality, decreased fertility are direct consequence of infection, new study shows.
Multiple tissues of the male genital tract can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study in large animal models. The study, in SARS-CoV-2 infected-rhesus macaques, revealed the prostate, vasculature of testicles, penis, and testicles were all infected with the virus.
The surprising discovery was made utilizing a PET scan specially designed to reveal sites of infection spreading over time in a whole-body scan. Scientists didn’t know what they would find, but they expected to see the virus in the lungs and high up in the nose near the brain because people were experiencing loss of taste and smell.
“But the signal that jumped out at us was the complete spread through the male genital tract,” said lead investigator Thomas Hope, professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. “We had no idea we would find it there.”
“These results indicate that the testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, hypogonadism, reduced sperm count and quality, and decreased fertility associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection are a direct consequence of infection of cells of the male reproductive tract and not indirect mechanisms such as fever and inflammation,” Hope said.
The evidence that infection with SARS-CoV-2 can negatively impact male sexual health and fertility is increasing every day. But scientists didn’t know the reason and wondered if the cause was fever and inflammation.
“We just didn’t understand why it had this negative impact until this study,” Hope said. He noted viruses such as mumps, Ebola, Zika, SARS-COV-1, and other viruses also can infect tissues of the male genital tract and negatively impact fertility. Mumps infection is well known to potentially cause male sterility.
The new study shows how the virus can cause pathology in the prostate, penis, testicles, and testicular vasculature (blood vessels), Hope said.
The study is posted as a preprint on bioRxiv, meaning it should be considered preliminary research until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“Even if this is only a small percentage of the infected, it represents millions of men who may suffer from a negative impact on their sexual health and fertility,” Hope said.
Clinical studies suggest 10% to 20% of SARS-CoV-2-infected men have symptoms related to male genital tract dysfunction. This suggests tens of millions of men who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, especially those who had severe COVID-19, should evaluate their sexual health and fertility to determine if additional therapies could prevent or diminish future problems, Hope said.
“The potential impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on sexual and reproductive health should be part of everyone’s decision to get vaccinated to minimize the chance of death, severe disease and hospitalization, and infection of the prostate, penis, testicles and vasculature (blood supply) of testicles,” Hope said.
This is the first PET (positron emission tomography) probe shown to be able to identify the sites of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a living animal, the study authors said.
“This approach allows the sequential scanning of the same animal, which defines the progression of virus dissemination and time before the virus is purged from the body,” Hope said. “It also has the potential to increase our understanding of long COVID and the development of novel therapies targeting different long COVID comorbidities.”
How the study worked
Early development of a fluorescently labeled version of the antibody-derived probe suggested a radioactive version of the probe would reveal the anatomical distribution of SARS-CoV-2 infection after a PET scan.
The observation of SARS-CoV-2 infection of the different tissues of the male genital tract emerges from a new system designed to use a PET scan to detect sites of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a rhesus macaque. The identification of the rhesus macaque as a major and reproducible site of SARS-CoV-2 infection was unexpected and has pathological characteristics consistent with the pathology of testicles of victims of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Future research by Hope’s lab will:
- Examine male genital tract infection at later timepoints
- Determine if testicles are a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 infection as has been suggested in literature
- Investigate if SARS-CoV-2 infects tissues of the female reproductive system
- Aid in the development of therapies and interventions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on male fertility
- Goal to eventually do PET scan on patients to determine the location of the virus and the best course of care
Reference: “An immunoPET probe to SARS-CoV-2 reveals early infection of the male genital tract in rhesus macaques” by Patrick J. Madden, Yanique Thomas, Robert V. Blair, Sadia Samer, Mark Doyle, Cecily C. Midkiff, Mark E. Becker, Muhammad S. Arif, Michael D. McRaven, Lacy M. Simons, Ann M. Carias, Elena Martinelli, Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo, Judd F Hultquist, Francois J. Villinger, Ronald S. Veazey and Thomas J. Hope, 28 February 2022, bioRxiv.
Other Northwestern authors include Patrick Madden, Yanique Thomas, Sadia Samer, Mark Becker, Muhammad Arif, Michael McRaven, Ann Carias, Elena Martinelli, Judd Hultquist, Lacy Simons and Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo.
This research was funded by a “Notice of Special Interest” supplement for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (of the National Institutes of Health) grant R37AI094595 for SARS-CoV-2 related studies.
Ballsy conclusions. BUT: Is ANY ONE conducting hard-on research to find a POSSIBLE link between DA VAC and this pathology? Seems that any up-standing research should address the POTENTial, rather than “keep it under one’s hat” as it were, in the Theatre of the REAL.
ENUF said. In the interest of maintaining clear and accurate Scientific Vision One does defer from flogging the Dolphin of Doubt. However, foregone conclusions do not good Science (or Scientists) make. Darwin notwithstanding, in word and deed, the aegis of Science does NOT preclude a sound spanking of THAT monkey.
Lest one stroke the lamp of self-congratulation and gratification: We have all had a hand in it. Left, right or center to the issue, we all bear the onus of bad Science, whether by intention or omission in a standing issue. Indeed: a jerk by any other name…
We’re not getting the jab…. Mmmk?
Was Nicki Minaj correct about her cousin? Wow, who would have thunk?
I believe they will find that the spike protein in covid disease and vax both do this.
Based on your years of expertise and research in the field? You don’t say…
Why are there so many antivaxxers and conspiracy folk commenting on a website that covers scientific research? You do know you don’t have to pollute every single corner of the web with your presence, right? Places like this one should be like garlic to vampires anyway.
Well fortunately, Pfizer also makes Viagra, so more money for them to help with the ED problems.
Instead of wasting a perfectly good face good face mask, they prefer to swallow. 🤢
Maybe nicki minaj was right
Interesting, but since the alleged virus has never been scientifically isolated, purified and demonstrated to cause pathology in a blind placebo trial, of limited value.
Assuming the COVID virus does exist, it would be interesting to know the mechanism involved, and whether the spike protein is the catalyst for these genital problems. If so, then it might be worth doing some parallel research on individuals who have been injected with mRNA therapy, which turns the body into a spike protein factory. I would bet such a study would be much more difficult to obtain funding for than the preliminary research, yet to be peer reviewed, headlined here.
It’s clearly an alien conspiracy to depopulate the earth of humans before they take over…. 😉
The burgeoning of TV ads for ED clinics probably is significant.
I contracted Covid in Feb. 2020, began experiencing ED problems — no libido. I received the Pfizer jabs in spring 2021: after the first shot, began feeling tingling and shooting pains in the area of the pericardial sac, and in the penis. Then developed Peyronie’s disease and intercourse became impossible even though libido had returned. [Vitamins C and E, coupled with an antioxidant (anthocyanimids from bilberries), seems to be helping restore function, but very slowly.]