The scope of the new coronavirus seems to be unknown, almost a year after the virus made its appearance in Wuhan, China.
Now, researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, found that COVID-19 can cause damage to testicular tissues and therefore, affect male fertility and even suggest that the disease could be transmitted sexually.
It is that, as it was already known, SARS-CoV-2 has an affinity for ACE-2 receptors, in fact it is said that this enzyme is the “gateway” of the virus to the body. And since ACE-2 receptor expression is high in the testes, the researchers hypothesized that COVID-19 is prevalent in the testicular tissue of infected patients.
“This study suggests that the male reproductive tract, specifically the testicles, may be targets for COVID-19 infection.. We found an inverse association between ACE-2 receptor levels and spermatogenesis, suggesting a possible mechanism for how COVID-19 can cause infertility, “concluded those who studied this new scope of the disease that has the world on edge.
For Ranjith Ramasamy, professor and director of reproductive urology at the school, “these findings could be the first step in discovering the potential impact of COVID-19 on male fertility and if the virus can be transmitted sexually.”
“It is a virus that binds to a receptor present in almost every organ in the body. In fact, the three most important organs in which the receptors are in greater density are the lungs, kidneys and testicles”, Deepened the researcher and main author of the study.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it was observed that there is a male preponderance for the virus and the first studies showed a worse severity and duration of the disease in men compared to women. This preponderance led to a higher incidence of the disease and a morbidity rate in men it is twice that in women. Likewise, the 2005 SARS-CoV virus, a respiratory virus that is part of the same family as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, had also been investigated for its effects on testicular tissue. An investigation from 2006 had found that six patients who died of SARS-CoV showed widespread germ cell destruction with few or no sperm, thickened basement membranes of the seminiferous tubules, as well as infiltration of lymphocytes and macrophages.
Now, The team led by Ramasamy performed biopsies on men who had died from COVID-19 and even on a patient recovered from the disease produced by the new coronavirus and that it was asymptomatic, “but still showed the presence of the virus inside the testicles”, specified the author.
Ramasamy added that the finding is “novel, remarkable and certainly worthy of further exploration,” while three other samples found “poor sperm function.”
The COVID-19 positive patients with impaired spermatogenesis and higher levels of ACE-2 receptor expression demonstrated a combination of findings that include “exclusive Sertoli cell pathology, hypospermatogenesis, arrest of early maturation and sclerosis of the seminiferous tubules,” the study detailed. While patients with decreased expression of the ACE-2 receptor showed between 95% and 100% normal spermatogenesis.
And after ensuring that more studies are needed to evaluate exactly “how testicular tissue responds to the virus and what that could mean for male fertility and sexual transmission,” he concluded: “The density of the ACE-2 receptor in testicular tissue may be a factor influencing the extent of damage to cells responsible for spermatogenesis., with higher ACE-2 expression possibly leading to poorer spermatogenesis ”.
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