SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may infect various tissues within the male genital tract. This was found by a team of US researchers during a study on rhesus macaques. However, the study is not peer-reviewed yet and has been posted on the pre-print site. It demonstrated that the coronavirus infected the prostate, penis, testicles, and surrounding blood vessels in three male rhesus macaques.
According to the researchers from Northwestern University, the latest study clearly indicates that symptoms like erectile dysfunction reported in some people who tested positive with COVID-19 may be caused directly by the coronavirus, not by inflammation or fever that often accompany the disease.
The surprising discovery was made with the help of a specially designed PET scan that reveals 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 in a report.
“We had no idea we would find it there,” he added.
Hope added that though the study was based on the findings in just three monkeys, the findings were consistent.
According to researchers involved in the study, they were not aware 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.
The team wrote in the World Journal of Men’s Health that infection causes widespread blood vessel dysfunction or endothelial dysfunction. And these can contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Earlier in 2021, researchers from the University of Miami had demonstrated that the virus causing COVID-19 can be present in the penis tissue long after men recover from the infection and lead to erectile dysfunction.