Can H3N2 influenza affect your sperm count? Read on to find out

H3N2 Influenza Outbreak in India: Viral infections can cause direct effects on the male reproductive system as well as systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, which can negatively impact sperm quality.

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H3N2 influenza and other viral infections currently prevalent in India may have similar effects on male fertility and sperm quality. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

H3N2 Influenza Outbreak in India: The incidence of infertility is rising across the world. Studies suggest that one of the possible reasons for this rising infertility cases is declining sperm count. According to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction Update last year, the decline in men’s reproductive function could “threaten mankind’s survival.”

Last month, a team of scientists led by AIIMS Patna found that COVID-19 infection has a negative impact on semen quality and sperm DNA fragmentation index. According to the researchers, the infection causes a potential sperm damage.

The study, published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science, revealed that in the first sampling, semen volume, vitality, total motility, sperm concentration, and total sperm count were significantly lower.

Can H3N2 influenza affect your sperm count?

The number of H3N2 cases is rapidly rising in the country. Just like COVID-19 is a viral infection, Influenza A virus subtype H3N2 is a subtype of viruses that causes influenza.

“…It is a subtype of Influenza A virus which causes seasonal flu and this is usually prevalent from January to March and post monsoon. As the summer begins, it should probably taper down by March end or early April. That said, it is important to remember that H3N2 is known to produce variants and we will probably have to wait and see how this progresses,” Dr C M A Belliappa, Consultant Medical Director, Practo told Financial

On Sunday, over 400 cases of the virus have been detected in India so far – with Jharkhand reporting the latest case. Can H3N2 have a similar impact on male fertility like COVID-19?

“There is currently limited research available on the specific impact of H3N2 influenza and other viral infections on male fertility and sperm in India. However, some general information can be provided on the effects of viral infections on male fertility. Male fertility and sperm quality can be negatively affected by viral infections. Viruses such as the mumps virus can cause inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) and decrease sperm production. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can also affect sperm quality and fertility by causing immune dysfunction and systemic inflammation,” Dr. Souren Bhattacharjee, Consultant Birla Fertility & IVF told Financial

According to Dr. Bhattacharjee, H3N2 influenza and other viral infections currently prevalent in India may have similar effects on male fertility and sperm quality. Viral infections can cause direct effects on the male reproductive system as well as systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, which can negatively impact sperm quality.

“When trying to conceive, men should practice good hygiene and avoid contact with sick people to avoid viral infections. It is important for men who become infected with a viral illness to seek medical treatment and to follow any recommendations made by their IVF specialist for managing the infection and minimizing its effects on fertility,” he added.

According to Dr Kshitiz Murdia – CEO & Co-Founder of Indira IVF, Influenza virus and other infection-causing viruses are not able to directly invade the male reproductive system however, through the fevers associated with them, it has been found that such viruses can temporarily lower sperm production.

“The human testes are located outside the body in a way that they are 2-3˚C cooler compared to the rest of the human body which is ideal for the production of sperm. With an increase in body temperature due to fever, there is a decrease in sperm count due to unfavourable conditions for their production. Additionally, fever can damage the DNA and proteins constituted in sperms, leading to the production of aberrant sperm and their lower motility. This is true for the common viral infections that are prevalent in India including Influenza A, Influenza B, H1N1, H3N2 as well as different strains of SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Murdia told Financial

However, Dr. Murdia also reiterated that such changes in sperm production and factors are temporary.

“However, in terms of the coronavirus disease, a study conducted by AIIMS has found that semen quality remained poor even after 3.5 months of COVID-19 infection; it has thus, become essential to check the semen parameters in males with a history of COVID-19 if/when they approach hospitals that provide assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments,” he added.

‘Not many studies to backup the effect of sperm count’

According to Dr Archna Dhawan Bajaj, Gynaecologist, Nurture IVF, H3N2 viruses in the currently pertinent viruses are all giving short duration diseases.

“They are not many studies to backup the effect of sperm count on their effect on sperm count and infertility, however, since they are debilitating and acute illnesses with high grade fever, Loss of appetite, Loose motions, breathlessness, difficulty in breathing etc. They may have a short term impact on male infertility. Perhaps, they will lead to decrease in sperm counts transiently impacting their forms that are man that are synthesised in the testes around the time of the disease,” Dr. Bajaj told Financial

According to Dr. Bajaj, the long term impact is yet to be studied.

“However as of all viral illnesses which are acute and debilitating, there may be some impact on male infertility,” she added.

Dr. Murdia also pointed out that the evidence on the specific impact of H3N2 on male fertility and semen parameters are currently scarce.

“Moreover, most of the studies done on the impact of viruses (such as H1N1) on the male reproductive system have been primarily done in animal models. Thus, these aspects need to be studied further over a period of time to derive a strong conclusion,” he added.

‘Cases have been reported of viral orchitis-like symptoms’

Dr. Shivani Sachdev Gour, Director of SCI Healthcare, Gynecologist and IVF expert told Financial that Seasonal flu infections happen every year worldwide. and some cases have been reported of viral orchitis-like symptoms.

Orchitis is a condition in which there is inflammation of the testicle unilaterally or bilaterally usually caused by viruses and bacteria.

“Seasonal flu are known to reduce male fertility temporarily due to the fever associated with the illness. In one case study, a patient recovering from influenza produced normal sperm again 45 days post fever. Characteristics of human sperm chromatin structure following an episode of influenza and high fever, a case study. In another study, sperm count, motility and genetic health began to improve in the 50-70 days after the patient’s fever resolved. High risk of temporary alteration of semen parameters after recent acute febrile illness. There is good evidence the effects in short term,” Dr. Gour told Financial

According to Dr. Shobha Subramanian-Itolikar, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Mulund, it has been known that Mumps virus and Zika virus affect the cellular function of the male internal reproductive organ, that is testes, there by permanently impacting male fertility.

“There were some reports of male infertility caused due to Influenza viruses. But over time and after research, it has been clear that these viruses cause a temporary defect in the sperm quality and quantity because of the inflammatory substances released during the active infection. So far there are no established reports of any long-lasting male fertility issues due to Influenza, Parainfluenza or Corona viruses. Large studies should be planned for unearthing more facts,” Dr. Subramanian-Itolikar told Financial

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First published on: 20-03-2023 at 13:45 IST
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