Coronavirus and Male Fertility

Coronavirus affects Male Fertility
COVID-19: One must respect small things in large numbers (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Flu season typically wreaks havoc on my male fertility practice. A solid flu, complete with fevers and body aches, drops sperm counts like a brick. But only temporarily. Things usually bounce back within 2-3 months. In contrast, the common cold doesn’t affect male fertility. This leads us to believe that the fever’s the thing. Fevers heat up the body and testicles and bring sperm production to a grinding halt. This is the same concept behind the effects of hot baths and tubs on sperm counts. Heat hurts male fertility.

Coronavirus Concerns

Ah, but what about the novel COVID-19 virus that is now uprooting our lives? Can it impact male fertility the way it has the stock market? Like any other seasonal virus, COVID-19 will temporarily impair sperm production if it is associated with fevers. But, there has also been recent mention (and then immediate retraction) in the Chinese press of the “theoretical possibility” that male fertility could be heavily impacted with COVID-19 since the virus infects us through the same receptor (ACE2) that is found in the testicle. My opinion: True, true, unrelated. The testicles share hundreds of the same receptors found elsewhere in the body, including taste, so the relevance of this factoid is questionable at best. Besides, we haven’t any evidence of a permanent impact of a seasonal flu virus on male fertility since time immemorial. Although no cause for worry, it does merit more research and less rumor.

Virulent Viruses and Coronials

In fact, we can count on one hand the number of viral infections that can permanently affect male fertility: the mumps virus, which doesn’t cause the flu. But to permanently affect fertility, mumps has to infect boys at puberty when the testicles are actively growing and it also has to “drop” and infect the testicles themselves, which occurs in 10-20% of peripubertal mumps cases. That means that having mumps earlier in childhood has no impact on future fertility. Another virus that might affect male fertility is the Zika virus, a flu virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The latest epidemic of Zika was in 2016 in the Southern hemisphere. You probably remember this virus because of fetal birth defects associated with Zika-infected pregnant women. During that outbreak, research was done on mice to see if Zika might impair male fertility after the infection resolved, and it did. However, the efficiency of this occurrence in mice is entirely unknown and this same issue has not been found in Zika-infected men. Just so you know, there are also no documented cases of testicular infections during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

So, we expect the COVID-19 virus to affect male infertility temporarily, similar to the seasonal flu. Given the stay-at-home restrictions around the world, this pandemic may even be a boost for human fertility, leading to a whole new batch of next-gen “coronials!”

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Male Fertility

  1. Hi doctor. I actually live near by your office and I thought I’d post on here since it’s kinda relevant. I called to see if I could get a consultation but I’m pretty poor right now I’m in school and lost my job due to coronavirus so wasn’t able to make it happen. I wanted to say I’ve read some of your post about trt and people using anabolics and it really has giving me hope. See I’m struggling right now and I’m quiet worried. You see I’m trying to have kids but that has been put on the back burner for now. But my concern is that I did a test cycle for 24 weeks and of course my testis shrunk I’ve been taking clomid now for almost 8 weeks and yet to see improvements or rather small improvements. And this being a fertility post I thought I mention it. My test lvl after 8 weeks is 588 free test is 387 shbg is 24 e2 57 lh is 5. Do you think I’m going to be ok and that I’ll be able to have kids? And is my testi size due to lack of sperm and will it cause a decrease in test after I wean off the clomid. I’m sorry for this long of a post and if you had a donate button on the site or something I would donate what I could. It’s the least I could do for you taking your time to look at this.

    1. Dear Michael, quite a complex case. Why don’t you head over to my office and let me take great care of you?!

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