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.
- 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.
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.
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.)
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
Moderna chief predicts existing COVID-19 vaccines will struggle with Omicron variant
(Asian News Hub) – The chief executive of Moderna has just predicted that existing COVID-19 vaccines will be much less effective at tackling Omicron than earlier variants of SARS-CoV-2 and warned it would take months before pharmaceutical companies can manufacture new variant-specific jabs at scale, FR reported.
Stéphane Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to infect human cells, and the suspected potential rapid spread of the variant in South Africa, suggested the current crop of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be modified next year to beat Omicron.
“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level, we had with Delta,” Bancel said.
He added: “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good’.”
Omicron has 30+ mutations in spike protein region, may bypass vaccines: Dr Guelria AIIMS chief
Says efficacy of vaccines, including those in use in India, needs to be evaluated ‘critically’
(Asian News Hub) – The new Omicron variant of coronavirus has reportedly got over 30 mutations in the spike protein region giving it the potential to develop a immunoescape mechanism, and thus the efficacy of vaccines against it needs to be evaluated critically, PTI reported as saying by AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guelria.
The presence of spike protein facilitates a virus’ entry into the host cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection.
“The new variant of coronavirus reportedly has got more than 30 mutations in the spike protein region and therefore has the potential of developing immunoescape mechanisms. As most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines,” AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guelria told PTI.
In such a scenario, the efficacy of vaccines, including those in use in India, needs to be evaluated “critically”, he said.
The future course of action will depend on what more data on its transmissibility, virulence and immunoescpae shows, he said.
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia INSACOG is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected yet in the country, officials have said.
Dr Guleria emphasised the need to be very vigilant and having aggressive surveillance both for international travellers and in the region where there is a sudden increase in the number of cases.
“Also, we must ask everyone to religiously follow Coivd-appropriate behaviour and not let their guards down. Also, it has to be ensured that people get both the doses of vaccine and those who have not yet taken the jab are encouraged to come forward to take it,” he said.
The new, and potentially more contagious variant, was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24. It has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel among other countries.
On Friday, it was designated a ‘Variant of Concern’ by the WHO, which named it Omicron. A ‘Variant of Concern’ is the WHO’s top category of worrying Covid-19 strain.
The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.
In a letter to the additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
As new Covid variant surfaces, Doctors body calls for enhanced genome sequencing
(Asian News Hub) – With the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant carrying worrisome mutations, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday called for enhanced genome sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples to look for the variant in the valley.
“We need to expedite the genome sequencing to identify the variant early and protect the community from another wave of Covid-19,” said DAK President and Influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
Also Read: J&K records lowest fertility rate in India
“Picking up the variant early is key to formulate appropriate and effective health policy that would help prevent and control its spread in the community,” he said.
The DAK President said genome sequencing is a laboratory method that is used to identify changes (mutations) in the genetic structure of the virus.
“A new variant of Covid-19 B.1.1.529 has surfaced in South Africa and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel,” he said.
Dr Hassan said the variant has 32 mutations in the region of the genome that controls production of the viral spike protein.
“The spike protein of the virus is critical for viral binding and entry to human cells. It is also the chief target of antibodies that the immune system produces to fight Covid-19 infection.” he added.
“Dubbed as Omicron, WHO has designated the new variant as variant of Concern,” said Dr Nisar.
He said a variant is labeled as variant of concern when the evidence shows the virus is more infectious, is causing more severe disease and is less responsive to existing control measures such as diagnostics, vaccine or treatment or a combination of these factors.
“South Africa has reported a fourfold increase in the number of new cases coinciding with the emergence of the new variant.
Many countries including Europe, US and Canada has imposed travel restrictions from South Africa and several other African countries,” he added.
Spokesperson DAK Dr Riyaz Amad Dagga said in today’s connected world, an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere.
Kashmir being the most favorite tourist destination, the mutant can come to us anytime. We have to be prepared and alert.
“We have to prepare in advance,” he said adding advance planning and preparedness is critical to help mitigate the impact of any eventuality.
General Secretary DAK Dr Arshad Ali said the best way to prevent the variant is to stop it from coming in as once the virus enters the community it is difficult to control it.
“Passengers at Srinagar international airport especially coming from affected countries should be rigorously screened to prevent the entry and spread of the variant in the valley,” he said.
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