Association between COVID-19 and Male Fertility: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

World J Mens Health. 2023 Apr;41(2):311-329. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.220091. Epub 2022 Oct 4.

Abstract

Purpose: Whether COVID-19 reduces male fertility remains requires further investigation. This meta-analysis and systematic review evaluated the impact of COVID-19 on male fertility.

Materials and methods: The literature in PubMed, Embase, MEDLINE, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library up to January 01, 2022 was systematically searched, and a meta-analysis was conducted to investigate the effect of COVID-19 on male fertility. Totally 17 studies with a total of 1,627 patients and 1,535 control subjects were included in our meta-analysis.

Results: Regarding sperm quality, COVID-19 decreased the total sperm count (p=0.012), sperm concentration (p=0.001), total motility (p=0.001), progressive sperm motility (p=0.048), and viability (p=0.031). Subgroup analyses showed that different control group populations did not change the results. It was found that during the illness stage of COVID-19, semen volume decreased, and during the recovery stage of COVID-19, sperm concentration and total motility decreased <90 days. We found that sperm concentration and total motility decreased during recovery for ≥90 days. Fever because of COVID-19 significantly reduced sperm concentration and progressive sperm motility, and COVID-19 without fever ≥90 days, the sperm total motility and progressive sperm motility decreased. Regarding disease severity, the moderate type of COVID-19 significantly reduced sperm total motility, but not the mild type. Regarding sex hormones, COVID-19 increased prolactin and estradiol. Subgroup analyses showed that during the illness stage, COVID-19 decreased testosterone (T) levels and increased luteinizing hormone levels. A potential publication bias may have existed in our meta-analysis.

Conclusions: COVID-19 in men significantly reduced sperm quality and caused sex hormone disruption. COVID-19 had long-term effects on sperm quality, especially on sperm concentration and total motility. It is critical to conduct larger multicenter studies to determine the consequences of COVID-19 on male fertility.

Keywords: COVID-19; Fertility; Male; SARS-CoV-2; Sex hormone; Sperm.