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COVID-19 Could Pose a “Global Threat” to Male Fertility; Study

Based on the pathophysiology of this insidious coronavirus, the research team behind a new report suggest the disease could:

Target male reproductive organs due to the high expression of ACE2 receptors in the testis and cause temporary or permanent tissue damage. ACE2 receptors are the main “entry-point” by which Covid-19 invades the body’s cells.

Interfere with sex hormone and sperm production.

Cause inflammation and contribute to erectile dysfunction (a possible signal of poor cardiovascular and pulmonary health).

Lead to stress that jeopardizes reproductive and sexual health as well as fertility.

Taken together, the disease could, per the report, pose a “global threat to male fertility potential.” A growing number of studies suggest men are more likely to be severely affected by Covid-19 than women.

COVID-19 AND MEN’S SEXUAL HEALTH


Since Covid-19 emerged, scientists have primarily focused on keeping patients alive by preventing the diseases’ most deadly symptoms. However, some interest has shifted toward the novel coronavirus’s less obvious effects — including those on sexual and reproductive systems.

In a review of Covid-19 studies published Wednesday in the journal Open Biology, researchers outline how the disease may influence men’s reproductive health.

“Emerging evidence indicates toward the possibility of testicular damage due to Covid-19, which in turn may compromise the fertility potential of such men along with the disruption of the normal production of sex hormones,” study co-author Shubhadeep Roychoudhury tells Inverse.

Roychoudhury is a biotechnologist at Assam University in India.

Roychoudhury and his colleagues are quick to preface the article by stating that the evidence is “preliminary in nature.”

There’s simply not the long-term, large-scale data needed to make firm predictions. Despite this, the researchers argue there is cause for concern based on how Covid-19 invades the body.

  1. TARGETED INVASION

Overall, the study team lists four ways Covid-19 may threaten male fertility.

The research team suggests the high expression of ACE2 receptors — the virus’s favorite entry-point — in the testis is a concern. The presence of the ACE2 receptor on germ cells, Leydig cells, and Sertoli cells in the male genital system makes it a potential target of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the scientists say.

Furthermore, some researchers report Covid-19 causes a reduction of Leydig cells, while Sertoli cells can become inflamed and detached. These cells are critical for reproductive health and sperm production.

  1. INFLAMMATION

There’s also worry Covid-19’s effects and resulting inflammation could cause temporary or permanent damage to reproductive tissue. Hyperinflammation around the heart and surrounding muscles may also block or narrow blood supply to the penis, causing erectile dysfunction.

Research published in July suggests Covid-19 can exacerbate cardiovascular conditions, increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction and the chance of developing “sexual and reproductive health issues.”

Total inflammation of the testicles, a condition called orchitis, doesn’t appear to be common. However, the report authors explain immune system overreactions called cytokine storms, along with high fevers, may lead to orchitis. It can cause permanent reproductive function damage.

  1. INTERFERENCE

Covid-19’s resulting system-wide inflammation can also send the endocrine system out of whack. In turn, men’s testosterone and other sex hormone levels can be disrupted, compromising fertility.

“The most pressing downstream effect that needs to be investigated is whether the inflammatory effects resulting from the viral infection in the testicular tissues and epididymis has the potential to disrupt the process of spermatogenesis and further compromise the viability of sperm cells,” Roychoudhury says. (Spermatogenesis is the origin and development of sperm cells.)

  1. STRESS

Pandemic-related stress, anxiety, and depression can also cause a change in mood. Studies suggest this can also affect sexual health.

Studies suggest between 25 and 60 percent of infertile individuals significantly higher anxiety and depression than fertile men. Scientists don’t know for sure which came first — the stress or infertility.

However, the research team still suggests mental health protections as an avenue for protecting fertility.

“SARS-CoV-2-infected men should be provided with psychological consultation in time to avoid irrational fear and excessive stress, as these may indirectly affect their reproductive health and well-being,” Roychoudhury says.

Covid-19 can also cause an uptick in oxidative stress — an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can threaten sperm health. Elevated levels of oxidative stress can affect sperm’s structural and functional integrity, including how it swims, its shape and count, and it’s viability.

THE IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY

Tissue damage, hormonal imbalances, cellular interference, inflammation, and stress could all work (individually or in tandem) to disrupt men’s sperm production as well as reproductive and sexual health.

But so far, data remains “insignificant” in regards to the long-term effects of Covid-19 on male fertility, Roychoudhury says. Researchers don’t know if or how long any potential effects might last.

“Further clinical trials involving male Covid-19 patients of reproductive age as well as longitudinal studies in pediatric patients will help understand the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on testicular functions and spermatogenesis,” Roychoudhury adds.

It will be pivotal to look to see if Covid-19 infected men who had previously conceived a baby are able to conceive again, he says. Until we get those answers, the scope of understanding Covid-19 and sexual health, as well as the potential solutions, are limited.

In the meantime, it is known men are more likely to die from Covid-19. Studies suggest these deaths are influenced by viral load and immune system response, but they may also link back to genetics or sex hormones. As studies continue, it’s best to wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance.

Note: this Article was first published on inverse

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Serosurvey would determine impact of possible 3rd Covid wave on children: DAK

(Asian News Hub) – Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said serosurvey of pediatric population in the valley would determine the impact of possible third Covid-19 wave on children.

Serosurvey of children will give us a fair estimate of their vulnerability in predicted third wave,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

“Serosurvey involves testing blood samples of individuals for antibodies that are developed after an infection,” he said.

“This will give us an idea about the percentage of pediatric population who might have developed natural immunity.”

Dr Hassan said recently, a serosurvey of general population including children aged 7 to 17 years has been completed in Kashmir, the results of which are awaited.  The sample size per district in the age group 7 to 11 was 40 and it was 80 in 12-17 age group.

“The survey needs to be extended to the age group of 0 to 6 years and the sample size per district should be 500 to 1000 to get a clearer picture of the actual percentage of children who have developed immunity against Covid-19,” he said.

Dr Hassan said there are speculations that children would be affected more than adults in possible third wave as this is the population group in which there is no vaccine yet.

“However, various serosurveys have dismissed the claim that the next wave will be affecting children exclusively,” he said.

“A pediatric serological study conducted by AIIMS, New Delhi at five different sites found that 55.7 percent children had developed antibodies,” DAK President said.

“The study found that seroprevalence of children and adults in the same regions were almost similar.”

“Another study conducted by PGI Chandigarh revealed that 69 percent of children had antibodies against Covid-19,” he said.

“These children had remained either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic during the infection.”

“The data of the two surveys prove that children have acquired natural immunity against the virus and it is highly unlikely that the third wave will affect children more than adults,” said Dr Nisar.

“This is a big relief. Because the apprehensions expressed by several health experts about the third wave primarily targeting children had left people worried,” he said.

“But, we can’t derive conclusions on the data from other regions. We need to have our own data based on which decisions can be made ahead of the feared third wave,” he added.

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Israel reports Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against infection down to 40%

(Asian News Hub) – The Health Ministry said Thursday that the effectiveness of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in preventing infection and mild symptoms has dropped to 40%, according to new data collected over the past month as the delta variant spreads in Israel.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meanwhile called on Israelis who haven’t been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

“The Israeli government is investing billions so that there is a vaccine available in every location in the country, and there are still a million Israelis who simply refuse to be vaccinated,” he said. “The vaccine refusers are endangering their health, their surroundings and all Israeli citizens. If a million Israelis continue to be unvaccinated, this will force the others to shut themselves in at home.”

The effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalizations and severe symptoms stands at 88% and 91%, respectively, the ministry said.

With inputs from Haaretz

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Scientists discover more than 30 viruses frozen in ice, most never seen before

(Asian News Hub) – A group of scientists discovered ancient viruses frozen in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China, and most of them are unlike anything ever seen before.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Microbiome, came from ice cores taken in 2015 that scientists said began to freeze at least 14,400 years ago.

“These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice,” Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author and researcher at the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a statement. “The glaciers in western China are not well-studied, and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are a part of those environments.”

When researchers analyzed the ice, they found genetic codes for 33 viruses. Of the 33, genetic codes for four of them showed they are part of virus families that typically infect bacteria. Up to 28 were novel, meaning they had never before been identified.

The group said it doesn’t believe the viruses originated from animals or humans but came from the soil or plants. The scientists said roughly half of them survived because of the ice.

“These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study and director of Ohio State’s Center of Microbiome Science.

“These viruses have signatures of genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions.”

Sullivan said the technology used to study microbes and viruses inside the ice would lead to looking for similar genetic sequences in other extreme ice environments, possibly on Mars.

Senior author of the study Lonnie Thompson said the discovery of the viruses in glaciers of ice will help researchers understand how they respond to climate change.

“We know very little about viruses and microbes in these extreme environments and what is actually there,” Thompson said. 

“The documentation and understanding of that is extremely important.”

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