Can COVID-19 Impair Male Fertility?
An article by Prof. Younis, of BIU’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, on the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 on male fertility, was chosen by the American Physiological Society as one of the five most read papers published on COVID-19 during 2020
Research conducted by Prof. Johnny S. Younis, Vice-Dean for Clinical Education at Bar-Ilan’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, contributes to our understanding of the possible long-term effects of COVID-19, specifically with regard to male fertility.
Initially the coronavirus was thought to be a type of flu that affects the respiratory system. Today, it is already known that the virus affects many bodily systems, including the heart, the kidneys and other organs, and that some of the damage is only manifested after recovery.
Prof. Younis’ article, “Is there an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on male fertility? The ACE2 connection", was chosen by the American Physiological Society as one of the five most read papers published on COVID-19 during 2020. The study focuses on a protein called ACE2, which caught the eye of Prof. Younis for several reasons, one of which is its prevalence in the lungs, heart, kidneys and also in the testicles. Since COVID-19 is known to harm the lungs, heart and kidneys, the question arises as to how the virus affects the testis and the male reproductive system, and consequently male fertility.
Prof. Younis' article suggests that the ACE2 protein is located on the cell membrane and is the main entry point of the coronavirus into the cell; ACE2 is also involved in sperm and testosterone production control. As mentioned, the virus may infect the testis as it enters cells through the ACE2 protein resulting in adverse reproductive implications, especially for young men planning to have children. An additional concern of the COVID-10 pandemic is that one of the prevalent symptoms is a significant and prolonged elevation in body temperature. In the medical world it is well known that fever and elevation of testicular temperature result in impairment of sperm production. Furthermore, some patients with severe COVID-19 might suffer from "cytokine storm" syndrome, an inflammatory condition that can increase the risk of testicular cancer. In light of all these risks and in view of the fact that there are already billions of people in the world who have been found positive for COVID-19, Prof. Younis' article calls for comprehensive research on the effects of the pandemic on male fertility and appropriate preparation in the field of reproductive medicine.
To read the joint research article by Prof. Younis, Prof. Zaid Abassi and Prof. Karl Skorecki in the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism