Assessment of SARS-CoV-2 in human semen—a cohort study

COVID-19 does not seem to have any short-term effects on male fertility in patients with mild symptoms. SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in semen of recovered and COVID-19 acute infected men.

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VOLUME 114, ISSUE 2, P233-238

Authors:

Nora Holtmann, M.D., Philippos Edimiris, M.D., Marcel Andree, M.D., Cornelius Doehmen, M.D., Dunja Baston-Buest, Ph.D., Ortwin Adams, M.D., Ph.D., Jan-Steffen Kruessel, M.D., Ph.D., Alexandra Petra Bielfeld, M.D., Ph.D.

Abstract:

Objective

To investigate the presence of viral RNA in human semen of patients with severe acute-respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and to evaluate its presence and relevance in semen parameters.


Design

Pilot cohort study.


Setting

University hospital.


Patient(s)

Thirty-four men were distributed as: 1) patients in convalescence (patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in pharyngeal swab according to reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction [RT-PCR] or antibodies); 2) negative control group (no antibodies); and 3) patients with an acute infection (detection of SARS-CoV-2 in pharyngeal swab).


Intervention

Semen and a blood sample were collected from each individual.


Main Outcome Measure(s)

Analysis of semen quality according to the World Health Organization standards. Detection of SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR in the native semen sample and after density gradient preparation. Confirmation of immunoglobulin (Ig) A und IgG antibodies in the blood.


Result(s)

Eighteen semen samples from recovered men were obtained 8–54 days after absence of symptoms, 14 from control subjects, and 2 from patients with an active COVID-19 infection. No RNA was detected by means of RT-PCR in the semen, including semen samples from two patients with an acute COVID-19 infection. Subjects with a moderate infection showed an impairment of sperm quality.


Conclusion(s)

A mild COVID-19 infection is not likely to affect testis and epididymis function, whereas semen parameters did seem impaired after a moderate infection. SARS-CoV-2 RNA could not be detected in semen of recovered and acute COVID-19–positive men. This suggests no viral transmission during sexual contact and assisted reproductive techniques, although further data need to be obtained.

Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to reproductive endocrinology, urology, andrology, physiology, immunology, genetics, contraception, and menopause. Fertility and Sterility® encourages and supports meaningful basic and clinical research, and facilitates and promotes excellence in professional education, in the field of reproductive medicine.

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Go to the profile of M. Blake Evans
M. Blake Evans about 2 months ago

Thank you to the authors for an important addition to the literature regarding male infertility and COVID-19. Regarding the decreased semen analysis parameters in those with moderate symptoms, is there a follow up evaluation planned to see if the parameters improve after the typical spermatogenesis timeline has passed?