A study conducted on mice revealed that Zika virus can cause them to become infertile. This is because once these mice are infected with Zika, it can cause their testes to shrink to one tenth of their normal size within as little as 21 days from the time of infection. When this occurs, the testicles are damaged to the point that sperm count diminishes and in some cases sperm production goes away completely.
The sperm stem cells can also be damaged by the virus, according to TIME. This means the virus negatively affects the production of sperm, causing fewer sperm to be produced and has an impact on the few sperm that do manage to be released.
According to CNN News, the mice that were infected with the Zika virus not only had a harder time getting the female mice pregnant, but their testicles shrunk by 90 percent, which in some mice led to infertility.
Could human men suffer the same fate? While it is a possibility, more studies are necessary to determine if human men could have the same problem if infected with the virus, as current studies only looked at the effects the virus has on fertility in mice and there is no proof, at this point, that the virus can do the same thing to human men.
According to the study, it is a known fact that the Zika virus can live in human male testes for a long time, even after the blood stream and urine are cleared of the virus. One study found that a man had the virus living in his testicles for up to three months and the virus survived in the testes of other men for as long as six months. Mumps is another virus that can cause severe damage to male testicles. The virus causes the testicles to swell and become painful, which can lead to infertility, according to NBC News.
The Zika virus has already proven it can cause severe damage to not only the placenta in a pregnant woman’s uterus but it can also cause brain damage to an unborn fetus. Once it infects a pregnant woman, it can cause other birth defects as well.
Zika virus is such a bad disease that, in rare cases, has been proven to cause damage to the central nervous system. When this occurs, it not only can cause brain inflammation, but it also can cause a paralyzing infection such as Guillain Barre syndrome.
Results of the mice study have raised concerns as to how the Zika virus will affect the fertility of human men. While it is known that the virus is transmitted sexually, and it is possible for it to stay in male semen for as long as six months, which could lead to infertility, additional studies are required to determine whether human men could suffer the same fertility fate as mice.
By Clarissa Wilson