The impact of acute SARS-CoV-2 on testicular function including insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) in men with mild COVID-19: A longitudinal study

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Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may affect the male reproductive system as it uses angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)2, which is expressed in testicular tissue, as an entry point into the cell. Few studies have evaluated the long-term effects of mild coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on testicular function, and insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) levels have not previously been assessed during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Objectives: The aim of the study was to assess the impact of acute SARS-CoV-2 infection on testicular function including INSL3 and the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in semen in non-hospitalised men with mild COVID-19. Materials and methods: This longitudinal study included 36 non-hospitalised SARS-CoV-2-positive men (median age 29 years). Inclusion was within seven days following a positive SARS-CoV-2 reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction test. Reproductive hormone levels, semen parameters, and the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in oropharyngeal and semen samples were assessed during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection (baseline) and at three- and six-month follow-up. Wilcoxon matched-pair signed-rank (two samples) test was used to assess time-related alterations in reproductive hormone levels and semen parameters. Results: Lower plasma testosterone (T) (total and calculated free (c-fT)) and higher luteinising hormone (LH) concentrations were observed during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection (baseline) compared to three- and six-month follow-up. Consequently, ratios of c-fT/LH were lower at baseline compared to three- and six-month follow-up (p < 0.001 and p = 0.003, respectively). Concomitantly, lower INSL3 concentrations were observed at baseline compared to three-month follow-up (p = 0.01). The total number of motile spermatozoa was also lower at baseline compared to six-month follow-up (p = 0.02). The alterations were detected irrespective of whether the men had experienced SARS-CoV-2-related fever episodes or not. No SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in semen at any time point. Discussion and conclusion: This study showed a reduction in testicular function, which was for the first time confirmed by INSL3, in men mildly affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection. The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 RNA via semen seems to be low. Febrile episodes may impact testicular function, but a direct effect of SARS-CoV-2 cannot be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Andrology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society of Andrology and European Academy of Andrology.

    Research areas

  • acute SARS-CoV-2, INSL3, insulin-like factor 3, male reproductive function, mild COVID-19, sexual transmission, testicular function

ID: 361309503