Study: Reduced Sperm Count, Motility Over 2 Months After Covid-19 Coronavirus Infection – Forbes

In a study of Belgian men, 60% of the study participants had lower sperm motilities on average … [+] during the first month after having Covid-19. (Photo: Getty)
Well, this certainly adds to the groin evidence that the Covid-19 coronavirus may be a whole new ball game, so to speak. A study just published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men were experiencing lower sperm motility and lower sperm counts even over two months after having had Covid-19 coronavirus infections.
The study followed 120 Belgian men who had had severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. And these Belgian men didn’t waffle about having been infected. All either had tested positive on a nasopharyngeal SARS-CoV-2 real-time (RT)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab or had suffered Covid-19 symptoms and subsequently tested positive for serum SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. In order to enter the study, study participants had to be free of any major Covid-19 symptoms for at least a week before being enrolled in the study.
Before you say, “oh but Covid-19 only really affects much older people,” keep in mind that most of the men in this study were still quite young. Their average age was 34.7 years of age with a range of 18 to 69 years. The majority of the participants were relatively healthy otherwise as well. Only 16 had any underlying medical conditions that would have put them at higher risk for severe Covid-19. Eight of the study participants reported having had fertility problems prior to the study. Most of the men didn’t have super severe Covid-19 either. Only five of the study participants had been hospitalized for Covid-19. Two of them did spend time in the intensive care unit (ICU). One actually had to undergo mechanical ventilation.
The study participants provided samples of the semen and blood at different time points. They also completed questionnaires asking them about their previous Covid-19 symptoms. None of the semen samples had any evidence the SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., RNA). The first samples were taken at least one week and on average 53 days after each study participant had recovered from Covid-19.
Sperm count and motility can affect the chances of an egg getting fertilized. (Photo: Getty)
The research team checked the semen samples for two major measures of male fertility: sperm motility and sperm count. As you may know, one of the keys to sperm is to just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, until it can reach an egg to fertilize. However, the study found that 60% of the study participants had lower sperm motilities on average during the first month after having Covid-19. This persisted for 37% of the study participants one to two months after their SARS-CoV-2 infections and for 28% beyond two months.
Of course, male fertility depends not only on the motion in the ocean but also on how many swimmers are in the race. Many of the study participants proved to be down for the count for a while. During the first month after their SARS-CoV-2 infections, 37% had reduced average sperm count. This lower sperm count continued for 29% of the men one to two months after their infections and for 6% beyond two months.
There wasn’t really any correlation between the severity of Covid-19 symptoms and decreased sperm count or motility. In other words, such sperm issues happened semen-ly equally in those who had mild Covid-19 versus those who had more severe Covid-19.
Checking 106 of the study participants for anti-sperm antibodies in their semen revealed IgA versions of such antibodies in 61% of them. In fact, one study participant had such antibodies attached to over 40% of his sperm, which may have rendered him infertile at the time. Fourteen study participants had between 10% and 40% of their sperm bound by such antibodies, which could have resulted in reduced fertility.
You may have heard claims on social media that the Covid-19 vaccines can somehow affect male fertility. For example, this past Fall, Nicki Minaj tweeted that “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent,” as I described for Forbes. She also claimed that “his testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding.” That may sound like impotent news about the Covid-19 vaccine. However, neither Minaj nor others have been able to provide any real scientific evidence to support such loaded claims.
By contrast, the Belgian study wasn’t just a tweet about someone’s cousin’s friend’s balls. This was a peer-reviewed study in a real medical journal that involved about 240 balls give or take some. It also wasn’t the first piece of evidence that may Covid-19 may affect male fertility. In 2020, researchers found the SARS-CoV-2 in the semen of men who had been infected with the virus, as this CBS News segment described:
And just a couple months ago, I covered for Forbes a case report of a 34-year-old man still having the SARS-CoV-2 and low sperm counts 11 weeks after his initial infection. So rather than cause male infertility, the Covid-19 vaccines may actually be able to prevent it by keeping you from getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2. Of course, more studies are needed to confirm this possibility.
All of this is further evidence that talk of Covid-19 being no more than the common cold is just nuts so to speak. When you have the common cold, you may blow your nose but typically don’t have to worry about, well, what may coming out of other lower parts of your body. Researchers are still learning more with passing time about what the SARS-CoV-2 can do to you. So it will be good to stay on the ball with the latest research.

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