It's been some months since Nicki Minaj and others amplified the falsehood that COVID vaccines made men's testicles swell up. And now some researchers have found that the COVID-19 virus gets into the penis, prostate, and testicles of some men, and can cause long-term problems with their sexual health and fertility.
There's a good deal of Venn diagram overlap between anti-vaxxers, COVID deniers, and macho Republican and libertarian men who think the virus is no match for them and their great, Trumpian personal strength. But wait til they hear their bouts with COVID might give them some trouble getting their dicks hard!
A pre-print, non-peer-reviewed study in the journal Northwestern Medicine reveals that "multiple tissues of the male genital tract can be infected with SARS-CoV-2," and the finding is based on PET scans of COVID-infected rhesus macaques. (The primates have been found to have similar disease progression to humans when infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and are therefore used as study subjects.) Researchers say they expected mostly to find the virus present in the upper nose and brain area — which would be the reason that COVID patients often lose their sense of taste or smell. But they found it also present in 10 to 20 percent of male subjects' genitals — specifically in the prostate, the vasculature of testicles, the penis and the testicles.
This tracks with how some other viruses, including SARS-CoV-1, Ebola, and mumps also infect the male genitals — and mumps have long been known to cause infertility.
And this is just one of the many strange, unsettling, and late-breaking complications from COVID that scientists have been warning about for the past two years, as the new virus continues to be studied.
Thomas Hope, professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and the lead investigator in the study, says his team was surprised by the findings. But they confirm other clinical studies that have found last effects from COVID in human male patients, including testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, and reduced sperm count.
"Even if this is only a small percentage of the infected, it represents millions of men who may suffer from a negative impact on their sexual health and fertility," Hope said in a release.
The study results still need to be peer-reviewed and published, and are considered preliminary.
Hope's lab at Northwestern will continue to investigate the effects of COVID on men's genitals at later timepoints, and look in to potential therapies for the ailments mentioned above. Also, they plan to look into whether similar impacts from the virus are occurring in women's reproductive systems.
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