Phew! A recent study says that covid-19 does not spread via sperm

Covid-19 virus may not spread through sexual intercourse but being intimate with a person who is infected is still not a good idea.
Sperm won yet another race against covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
IANS Published: 23 Apr 2020, 14:33 pm IST
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There are a lot of ifs and buts when it comes to the spread of covid-19 virus. Lot of studies are taking place on a day to day basis so that maximum precautions can be taken. There was also ambiguity about whether sexual intercourse can also lead to a transfer of covid-19 virus and this study has an answer for this. 

According to a recent study, the deadly coronavirus is unlikely to spread through sperms, say researchers, adding that they found no evidence of the virus in the samples of semen of men infected with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease. It comes as a huge relief as that would have made the spread multiply.

Covid-19 is not an STD
“The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding,” said study co-author James M Hotaling from the University of Utah in the US.

Hotaling added:

If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man’s long-term reproductive health. 

For the findings, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the international team of researchers from China and the US launched the study in response to concerns that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could be sexually transmitted like Ebola, Zika and other emerging viral pathogens. To find out, they collected semen samples from 34 Chinese men one month (on average) after they were diagnosed with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

Laboratory tests did not detect SARS-CoV-2 in any of the semen samples. But just because the virus wasn’t present in the existing semen didn’t necessary rule out that it hadn’t entered the testes where sperm cells are formed, the researchers said.

Covid-19 might damage the semen production
“If the virus is in the testes but not the sperm it can’t be sexually transmitted but if it is in the testes, it can cause long-term damage to semen and sperm production,” said study co-author Jingtao Guo.

To sort this part of the puzzle out, the researchers analysed a dataset generated from a single cell mRNA atlas from healthy young organ donors that were available from prior work. This atlas allows them to examine mRNA, the genetic material used to make proteins, in any single testicular cell.

male fertility tips
Yes, covid-19 is not good for your partner’s sperm count. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

In this case, the scientist used it to examine the expression of a pair of genes associated with SARS-CoV-2.These two genes, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) act as receptors, allowing SARS-CoV2 to penetrate cells and replicate.

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In order for the virus to access cells effectively, both receptors must be present in the same cell. When the researchers examined the dataset, they found that genes encoding these two proteins were only found in four of the 6,500 testicular cells, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to invade human testicular cells.

Despite these findings, the researchers acknowledge that their study has several important limitations including small sample size and the fact that none of the donors had been severely ill with COVID-19.

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