Recently, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah Health Sciences examined the transmission of the novel coronavirus in Chinese men who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.
More specifically, the researchers were interested in seeing whether the transmission of the coronavirus infection can occur through sexual contact. The findings of the study show that the infection, in fact, may not spread sexually.
The study was not as comprehensive and thorough but based on the results of the examination of the patients with COVID-19, there is evidence to support that sexual transmission may not be possible with coronavirus.
The U of U Health associate professor of urology specializing in male fertility and co-author of the study, James M. Hotaling, explains “The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding,”
He adds that “If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man’s long-term reproductive health.”
The study, whose findings appear in the peer-reviewed journal published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine known as Fertility & Sterility, was set up after concerns over the sexual transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19, started to spread around the world.
Many believe that the SARS-CoV-2 has the ability to spread like other well-known, highly contagious viruses that have caused epidemics before such as the Zika virus and Ebola.
To see whether SARS-CoV-2 can spread through sexual contact, the team of researchers recruited thirty-four Chinese men who had tested positive for the coronavirus infection with mild to moderate symptoms a month earlier.
Then, semen samples were collected from the participants in order to check for SARS-CoV-2 and look further into spread of COVID-19 through sexual contact.
However, the laboratory testing of the collected semen samples from the Chinese men did not detect coronavirus in them but the researchers state it can still be possible for SARS-CoV-2 to be present in testes of the participants
The co-author of the study and postdoctoral scientist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Jingtao Guo, explains the presence of the coronavirus in the testes does not mean it can spread.
Instead, coronavirus in the testes can damage sperm production and even cause long-term effects on the health of tests. To see whether the coronavirus can enter a man’s testing, the team then carried further experiments.
To do so, they examined data on single-cell mRNA atlas from a young donor who did not have COVID-19 or any pre-existing medical conditions. The mRNA was then used to study the expression of a pair of genes that are tied to the novel coronavirus.
The two genes, transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) and, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), function as receptors and enable the coronavirus or SARS-CoV2 to enter cells and divide.
Hence, both of the genes are required to be present in the cells for SARS-CoV2 to penetrate them and cause an infection. However, the team found that both of these genes were only present in four out of the six thousand five hundred cells in the testicles.
Therefore, it means that the SARS-CoV2 is highly unlikely to enter the testicles of a man in the first place.
While these findings do show that COVID-19 may not spread through sexual contact, the researchers agree that the study sample was small. In addition, they warn people that it is better to avoid any kind of contact during the pandemic as it can increase the risk of contracting the infection.