A new study, published today in the journal Nature, has shown that a mouse adapted strain of Zika virus can have adverse effects on the testes in a mouse model, namely reduced testes size and weight, and also causing damage to the parts of the testes that are responsible for the production of semen. As a Spokesperson for the British Society for Immunology, Peter was invited to issue a media comment on the study by the Science Media Centre. The statement issued can be read below in full;
Dr Peter Barlow, British Society for Immunology spokesperson and Reader in Immunology & Infection at Edinburgh Napier University, said:
““In humans, Zika virus has been shown to be present in the semen of males for many months after symptoms appear, but the direct effects of the virus on the male reproductive tract are largely unknown. This study used mice to look at how Zika virus could infect, and survive, in the testes over time. This is particularly important as Zika virus can be sexually transmitted between humans, although such transmission is currently thought to be rare.
“The study showed that one strain of Zika virus, which could efficiently infect mice, caused a decrease in the size and weight of the testes in mice, and caused damage to parts of the testes that produce semen. Zika also altered the levels of hormones that influence the production of sperm. All of these effects translated to much lower rates of pregnancy when the male mice that had been infected with Zika were mated with females. However, it is worth noting that when another strain of Zika virus was compared, one that did not replicate well in mice, the damage to the testes was not as serious. It is not currently known if all strains of Zika virus would have the same effects.
“While it is currently unclear if Zika virus infection would cause reduced testes size and fertility in man, this study does raise concerns that Zika virus could potentially have direct effects on male fertility. Therefore, more work is needed to determine if these observations in mice would translate to men.”
Peter’s comments were published in The Daily Mail.