COVID and sperm quality - what does the latest research say?
A study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine came out early this year evaluating the impact of COVID infection on semen parameters. Let’s review what was found.
This study reviewed semen analysis and quality (DNA integrity) of 120 men post covid infection.
The researchers used the WHO criteria and references for semen analysis.
The finds were such:
25% of cases showed oligozoospermia or reduced sperm count
44% of cases showed asthenozoospermia or reduced sperm motility
67% of cases showed teratozoospermia, or abnormal morphology (shape)
Sperm concentration was the least affected
The authors then stratified the data based on the time since their infection:
- Short = 1 month or less since infection
- Intermediate = 1-2 months since infections
- Long = 2 months or greater.
The greatest impact on semen parameters was seen within the first month and improved with each month.
They also reviewed the level of DNA damage. Similarly, this was most pronounced after 1 month.
The authors conclude that sperm quality can be suboptimal after COVID infection, and they estimate a recovery time of approximately 3 months. This makes sense because we know that sperm development is about that amount of time.
While those numbers may sound alarming, I was not overly surprised to see this report, because we know that developing sperm is highly sensitive to the environment that it’s growing under. With an infection - we see a sudden increase in inflammation, heat, and all resources go toward fighting that infection. This combination isn’t the most ideal for developing sperm to their peak potential.
However, because sperm are so sensitive to their environment, this means we have an opportunity to influence their development in a positive way as well.
Some aspects I’m considering, include:
- Supporting post-infection recovery
- Optimizing nutrition and building blocks for sperm development
- Increasing blood and lymph flow to support healing
- Consider cold laser therapy for inflammation, mitochondrial support, and defending against oxidative stress
- Screening for inflammatory markers and specific nutrient status like Vitamin D and ensuring we support areas
- Consider targeted anti-oxidant therapy, including glutathione, vitamin C, zinc, and carnitine (among other nutrients) to counter oxidative stress which may impact sperm quality.
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