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Erectile dysfunction reported by Covid patients could be caused by virus – study

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Researchers from the University of Miami were the first to demonstrate that Covid-19 can be present in penis tissue long after men recover from the infection.

File picture: IANS

A STUDY on rhesus macaques by a team of US researchers has shown that Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, may infect tissue within the male genital tract.

The study, posted on a pre-print site and not peer-reviewed yet, demonstrated that the Covid virus infected the prostate, penis, testicles and surrounding blood vessels in three male rhesus macaques, the New York Times reported.

According to the team from Northwestern University, Chicago, the study indicates that symptoms such as erectile dysfunction reported by some Covid-19 patients may be caused directly by the virus, not by the inflammation or fever that often accompany the disease.

The team examined the monkeys with whole-body scans designed to detect sites of infection, the report said.

“The signal that jumped out at us was the complete spread through the male genital tract,” Thomas Hope, Professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, was quoted as saying.

“We had no idea we would find it there,” he added.

Although the study was based on findings in just three monkeys, the findings were consistent, Hope said.

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The team does not know whether the monkeys had symptoms corresponding to the viral infection of the male genital tract, such as low testosterone levels, low sperm counts, pain or sexual dysfunction, Hope said.

Last year, researchers from the University of Miami became the first to demonstrate that Covid-19 can be present in the penis tissue long after men recover from the infection and may lead to erectile dysfunction.

The Covid-19 infection could cause widespread blood vessel dysfunction, or endothelial dysfunction, which could then contribute to erectile dysfunction, the team wrote in the World Journal of Men’s Health.

Since then, various studies have reported that about 10% to 20% of men infected with the coronavirus have symptoms linked to male genital tract dysfunction.

In addition, men infected with the virus are three to six times as likely as others to develop erectile dysfunction, believed to be an indicator of so-called “long Covid”, the New York Times report said.

Other viruses are also known to take a toll on fertility, Hope noted. “Mumps is most famous historically for causing sterility,” he said. “The Zika virus goes to the testes and infects the testes, and Ebola can also do that.”

He urged men to get vaccinated and to seek a medical evaluation if they were concerned about their sexual or reproductive health, the report said.

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