22 Jun Testes are a Potential Site of SARS-CoV-2 Replication
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Rafael Kroon Campos PhD
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
University of Texas Medical Branch
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting millions of people. COVID-19 is a disease that primarily affects the lungs, but it also affects other organs and tissues, including heart and olfactory receptors. There is a growing body of evidence showing that COVID-19 can affect reproductive health by reducing androgen hormones, sperm counts and causing pain and discomfort in the testes. The virus that causes this disease is named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is unknown whether these symptoms are caused by direct virus testes infection or a byproduct of the immune system fighting the virus.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: This study used hamsters as an animal model, which causes signs and symptoms similar to those observed in mild COVID-19 in humans. We noted that there was a large quantity of virus in the lungs as expected. Interestingly, we also detected viral RNA in the testes of all hamsters within the first week after infection but were unable to see any detectable damage to the testicular tissue. To confirm these results, testes from uninfected hamsters were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and we observed the number of infectious viral particles increased. This shows that the testes are a potential site of SARS-CoV-2 replication.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the implications for humans?
Response: These findings are the first step in understanding how COVID-19 impacts the male genital tract and potentially men’s reproductive health. The results raise the concern that COVID-19 could have possible implications for testicular damage, reproductive health, and sexual transmission.
This study complements others that suggest severe COVID-19 cases can have a worse prognosis than in women. Sometimes men with COVID-19 present with testicular pain and reduced androgen hormones; however, our study indicates that patients with mild COVID-19 may not present complications on the testes.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research should model conditions associated with severe COVID-19, pre-existing conditions like diabetes and obesity, and SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Medical doctors should carry out careful observational studies on COVID-19 patients to evaluate the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 on men’s reproductive and general health. Vaccines to prevent COVID-19 are now largely used, but the effect on men’s reproductive health should be assessed, and treatments should also be developed.
This research was carried out without any conflicts of interest.
Rafael K. Campos, Vidyleison N. Camargos, Sasha R. Azar, Clint A. Haines, Eduardo J. Eyzaguirre, Shannan L. Rossi. SARS-CoV-2 Infects Hamster Testes. Microorganisms, 2021; 9 (6): 1318 DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms9061318
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