To evaluate the presence and analyze the pathological changes within the testes of patients who died or recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) complications.
Testis tissue was collected from autopsies of COVID-19 positive (n=6) and negative men (n=3). Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and subjected to immunofluorescence for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) expression. Fluorescent-labeled tissue slides were imaged on a quantitative pathology scope with various zoom levels allowing for qualitative and quantitative interpretation. Tissue from four COVID-19 positive autopsy cases and a live seroconverted patient was imaged with transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
H&E histomorphology showed three of the six COVID-19 biopsies had normal spermatogenesis while the remaining three had impaired spermatogenesis. TEM showed the COVID-19 virus in testis tissue of one COVID-19 positive autopsy case and the live biopsy, H&E stain on the same autopsy case demonstrated interstitial macrophage and leukocyte infiltration. Immunofluorescent stained slides from six COVID-19 positive men demonstrated a direct association between increased quantitative ACE-2 levels and impairment of spermatogenesis.
The novel COVID-19 has an affinity for ACE-2 receptors. Since ACE-2 receptor expression is high in the testes, we hypothesized that COVID-19 is prevalent in testes tissue of infected patients. This study suggests the male reproductive tract, specifically the testes, may be targets of COVID-19 infection. We found an inverse association between ACE-2 receptor levels and spermatogenesis, suggesting a possible mechanism of how COVID-19 can cause infertility.
The world journal of men's health. 2020 Nov 03 [Epub ahead of print]
Justin K Achua, Kevin Y Chu, Emad Ibrahim, Kajal Khodamoradi, Katiana S Delma, Oleksii A Iakymenko, Oleksandr N Kryvenko, Himanshu Arora, Ranjith Ramasamy
Department of Urology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA., Department of Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.