The coronavirus infects the penis and testicles of monkeys, research shows. The development of the disease has led to problems such as erectile dysfunction, decreased sperm count, decreased sperm quality, and infertility. The research suggests the findings may also apply to humans.
US scientists analyzed the effects of Sars-CoV-2 infection in three monkeys using a probe that directly looked for the spike protein, from the coronavirus, in the organ. The results, which have yet to be peer reviewed, were published on the bioRxiv platform last Monday (2/28).
The investigations with the equipment were done in three moments. The first was on the whole body of the monkeys 24 hours after infection. Subsequently, the animals underwent an autopsy and the genitals were removed for further analysis. Finally, the organs were cut out so the probe could examine the parts from the inside.
“Two results immediately stood out from what was expected. A minimal signal was associated with the lungs, while a very strong signal was associated with the penis and testes of infected animals.
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The researchers identified cells infected with Sars-CoV-2 in the testes of all the animals. The comparison reveals that, during the second week of the disease, the infection decreases in the lungs and increases in the testicles. Additionally, organ staining showed cell degeneration and extensive damage to the genital tubes.
Compared to the penis of monkeys, the coronavirus reduces the vascularization capacity of the corpora cavernosa. That is to say, Covid has disrupted the blood circulation necessary for the erection of the penis. Other damage was also found in the urethra of the animals.
Possible effects on humans
Although the study was performed on monkeys, scientists consider it reasonable to suggest that the condition may be repeated in humans infected with the coronavirus. According to the researchers, in humans, the virus is capable of potentially diminishing individuals’ sex lives by reducing testosterone production and contributing to erectile dysfunction.
“It is very relevant in this extrapolation to consider that we have identified four distinct tissues where Sars-CoV-2 infection can affect male sexual health and fertility: prostate, penis, pampiniform plexus and testes. “, underlines the document.
The study is a preprint and has therefore not yet passed peer review. As such, results should not guide health-related behaviors or be reported as conclusive.
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