Scientists: Covid affects sperm count

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Evidence suggests that Covid-19 virus can occasionally be found in semen.

Scientists now say though Covid-19 cannot be transmitted sexually, it adversely affects sperm quality.

This emerged after researchers at Oasis Fertility in India tracked sperm counts in 20 men aged 25 to 35 from the time preceding SARS-CoV-2 infection, to nearly five months after they had fully recovered.

The study revealed that Covid-19 infections can lower one’s sperm count for months and that the virus can occasionally be found in semen and may even directly bind to sperm cells.

In another study, the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai analysed seminal fluid obtained from Covid-19-infected men for proteins known to be vital for spermatogenesis as well as for the fertilisation process, which takes place between sperm and the female egg.

Scientists clarified that the study was conducted on men recovering from coronavirus infection and aimed at establishing the long-term impact of Covid-19 on male reproduction.

The scientists found an abnormality in expression of 48 proteins that are relevant for reproduction in men recovering from Covid-19. 

A proteomic analysis suggested that there may be an association between Covid-19 and the decline in male fertility, which led them to conclude that men who have had Covid-19 may have reduced ability to sire a child soon after an infection. It is, however, not clear whether this impact lasts long.

Significantly, this comes after a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2021 State of the World Report indicated that the world population has been falling in the past few decades.

The latest UN projections show that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before reaching a peak of around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s, after which it is expected to remain at that level until 2100.

“Today, two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run, for a population with low mortality,” experts noted.

“In 61 countries or areas, the population is expected to decrease by at least one per cent over the next three decades, as a result of sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.

“Covid-19 has had an effect on population change: global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years in 2021 (down from 72.9 in 2019) and, in some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births,” the report highlights.

The report further discloses that more than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania. 

“Further actions by governments aimed at reducing fertility would have little impact on the pace of population growth between now and mid-century, because of the youthful age structure of today’s global population,” said John Wilmoth, the director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Desa), while explaining that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the population increase anticipated through 2050.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin cautioned that rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition, as well as increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult.

“In most Sub-Saharan African countries, as well as in parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility have led to a “demographic dividend”, with a rise in the share of the working age population (25 to 64 years) providing an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita,” he explains.  

Experts observe that the world should expect to see far more grey hairs by 2050.

“By then, it is expected that the number of persons aged 65 years or over worldwide will be more than twice the number of children under the age of five, and about the same as the number under age 12.

Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average global longevity of around 77.2 years in 2050. Yet in 2021, life expectancy for the least developed countries lagged seven years behind the global average,” the report states.

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