MUMBAI: The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid not only causes cardiac and neurological symptoms, but a new joint study by IIT Bombay and Jaslok Hospital Fertility Center has found that it affects also the male reproductive system.
In a first-of-its-kind study, Dr Firuza Parikh of Jaslok Hospital and Dr Sanjeeva Srivastava, Head of Proteomics Laboratory at IIT Bombay, showed that Covid-19 negatively alters sperm proteins, thereby affecting fertility male. “It does this by deregulating (a condition in which a process in the body is not controlled as it normally should be) vital genes and proteins involved in male reproduction,” Dr Parikh said.
For the study, published in the indexed “Journal of the American Chemical Society” a few days ago, the research team analyzed semen samples from 27 men in the 20-45 age group – 17 who had recovered from Covid and 10 others who hadn’t suffered from the disease. None of them had a history of infertility.
“We found that recovered men had significantly reduced sperm count and motility, and fewer normal-shaped sperm, than men who did not have Covid-19,” Dr Parikh said.
Dr Srivastava said his team at IIT Bombay prepared a “large matrix” to check 1,000 proteins per patient. “We analyzed these proteins using proteomics based on advanced liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry and found that 27 proteins were at higher levels and 21 were at lower levels in men recovered from Covid-19 compared to those in the control group,” he said.
Two fertility-related proteins, Semenogelin 1 and Prosaposin, were at half their usual levels in semen from the Covid group. Dr Parikh said that since semen reflects the overall function of the male reproductive system, “this derangement could be a sign of long-term damage” that the SARS-Cov-2 virus may cause on the male reproductive system.
Dr. Srivastava said the study had two limitations, as mentioned in the article. “First, we had limited samples. Second, this is a first study and we plan to revisit these patients every few months to check on their recovery,” he said.
Dr Shashank Joshi, who is a member of the Maharashtra state government’s Covid task force, said Covid had from the earliest days shown a predilection for sex. “As the concentration of ACE2 is high in testicular cells, men were more affected by Covid-19,” he said. Overall, Covid-19 has affected more men than women.
Regarding the latest proteomics study, Dr Joshi said: “This is an academic finding and a hypothesis that we first need to correlate with strong clinical results.

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