According to a study, the coronavirus can cause erectile dysfunction months after a man has recovered from the disease.
Scientists at the University of Miami scanned the penile tissue of two recovered Covid patients, 65 and 71 years old, who were struggling to get erections.
And in what they claimed was a world first, they found the virus was still there, more than six months after they got sick.
One of the men was seriously ill and was hospitalized, but the other only had mild Covid, suggesting anyone infected may be at risk.
Experts not involved in the study said this was the first evidence that Covid had been found in the penis.
The virus is known to damage blood vessels and internal organs, and this research suggests it can block blood flow to the genitals, making it difficult to have sex.
It can do this by causing swelling and dysfunction in the linings of blood vessels that run throughout the body and into the penis.
Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, who conducted the small study, said, “We found that men who previously did not complain of erectile dysfunction developed quite severe erectile dysfunction after the onset of Covid infection.”
The Covid virus (indicated by the blue arrows) is seen in tissue in the penis. Scientists zoomed in at 10 nanometers – or 0.000001 centimeters – to recognize it and said its presence may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction
The virus was also detected in a separate patient. Scientists at the University of Miami checked samples from two men with erectile dysfunction who had had Covid for the virus
Dr. Ramasamy, a urologist at MU, added, ‘This suggests that men who develop a Covid infection should be aware that ED could be an adverse effect of the virus.
“They should see a doctor if they develop ED symptoms.”
The study was probably too small to prove a definitive link between Covid and erectile dysfunction, as it only included two men – it’s not clear if the virus enters the penis every time someone contracts it.
And it is also not yet known if the coronavirus in the penis caused the problem or if it was a side effect of damage elsewhere in the body.
Both men were older than middle age and one had high blood pressure and heart disease, which increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. They had no erectile dysfunction before their bout of Covid.
HOW CAN IT CAUSE AN ERECTILE FAILURE?
It is estimated that more than one in five men who get Covid can develop erectile dysfunction afterwards.
Scientists have proposed several theories to explain why the dysfunction may occur.
The virus – SARS-CoV-2 – is known to cause inflammation, which restricts blood flow.
The blood vessels leading to the penis are small and narrow, which means that any inflammation can hinder a man’s ability to get an erection.
Dr. Channa Jayasena, a reproductive endochronology consultant at Hammersmith Hospital in London, has suggested that the problems may also be related to a disruption in hormone levels.
The virus can cause testosterone levels to drop, which in turn can affect a man’s sexual arousal.
Experts say anyone suffering from ED after a Covid infection should see their doctor.
But their tests were compared to samples from two other men who also had ED but were not infected with the virus.
Levels of an enzyme involved in eliciting an erection (eNOS) were lower in the Covid patients.
The Covid patients also had signs of dysfunction in their blood vessel lining – called endothelial dysfunction – while the uninfected men did not.
Scientists zoomed in at 100 nanometers – about 0.000001 centimeters – on the tissue to look for the virus and also performed PCR tests to detect Covid, which were positive.
A medical student who worked on the study, Eliyahu Kresch, added: “These latest findings are another reason why we should all do our best to avoid Covid.
“We recommend vaccination and generally try to stay safe.”
Professor Allan Pacey, a male fertility expert at Sheffield University, said the study was the first time the virus had been found in the penis.
“There has been a lot of debate about whether Covid can affect various aspects of the male reproductive system, including the erectile tissue of the penis,” he told MailOnline.
Last month, a small study from Italy showed that men recovering from Covid were six times more likely to have erectile dysfunction.
This study now provides the first evidence that the virus can be found in the penis, albeit in only two men.
“This is not much of a surprise, and should be another reason why people should continue to wear masks and get vaccinated when it is their turn.”
The Miami study isn’t the first to link Covid to erectile dysfunction.
But in a press release describing the findings, they claimed it was the “first to show Covid was present in penile tissue long after recovery.”
Research in Italy last month found that one in three men could get the virus.
Scientists in Rome asked 100 men who had recovered from Covid, with an average age of 33 years, if they were experiencing arousal.
A whopping 28 percent said they did. In comparison, the percentage was nine percent among those who had not contracted the virus.
Scientists have suggested that virus binding to ACE-2 receptors, which are present in both the testicles and the lungs, can lead to ED.
“ One of the devious ways the virus enters the body is by binding its peak protein to a receptor found in fairly high concentrations not only in the lungs but also in the reproductive organs, ” says Dr. Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology at Hammersmith. Hospital, London.
“If Covid binds to these receptors, they can no longer perform their normal function.”
Experts have also pointed to inflammation that restricts blood flow as another possible cause, and a decrease in testosterone levels in those recovering from infection.
The Miami University study is published in the World Journal of Men’s Health.