CHICAGO — Scientists are still figuring out the long-term impact of COVID infections. But more research now suggests the virus is having a significant impact on men’s sexual health.

For the first time, a new study shows how the virus infects multiple tissues in a man’s genital tract, affecting blood flow and fertility.

When Northwestern University researchers began performing their imaging scans of primates infected with SARS-CoV-2, they expected to see the virus appear in the lungs and near the brain.

“It’s very specifically designed to detect virus and virus in virus-infected cells,” said Thomas J. Hope, professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

But the scans, which help reveal the metabolic and biochemical function of tissues and organs, shed much lower light.

“Basically, this animal’s penis and testicles were just shiny. So we didn’t expect to see that, said Hope, who is the study’s principal investigator.

At the same time, clinicians in the North West have begun studying samples from autopsies of men who died of COVID.

“As we began to compare the results of the examination of pathology and those of certain tissues, the destruction of these tissues by the virus was very consistent with what was observed in humans and autopsy samples. “, said Hope.

The indication that COVID infections can negatively impact men’s sexual health has grown.

A recent University of Florida Health Study found that men with COVID-19 are more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction than those who have not had a bout with the virus.

North West researchers found that testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count and quality, and decreased fertility were linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection similar to other diseases like Ebola and Zika.

“These types of symptoms are known to be associated with other viral infections, with mumps historically being very well known for causing male infertility,” Hope said.

Hope wanted to know how it was going.

“Is this caused by the fever? Inflammation? Is it a kind of indirect or is it direct? ” He asked.

The analyzes revealed that these symptoms were the direct result of a cellular infection of the male reproductive tract and not caused by fever or inflammation.

“And so, we kind of make this connection with what’s trying to explain the mechanism of what’s seen in humans,” Hope said.

In the future, researchers hope to study whether SARS-CoV-2 infects tissues of the female reproductive system, as well as trying to develop therapies that could lessen its impact on male fertility.

“If we can identify people who are having issues, try to understand that better, then we can really make an impact and improve people’s lives,” Hope said. “Which is really the point.”