Zika Virus Causes Mouse Testes and Sperm Count to Shrink Dramatically

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

A new study linking Zika to testicle shrinkage has been published in Nature magazine, triggering a renewed interest in the virus, particularly amongst the world’s male population.

The report shows that the poor male mice infected with Zika as part of the study took a direct hit to the reproductive system. Testosterone levels and sperm count were significantly reduced, and their testes had shrunk by as much as 90%, with their internal structure destroyed.

What’s more, this damage could potentially be irreversible, as the mice’s shrunken balls didn’t heal even six weeks after the virus was gone from their systems.

“The virus is infecting a site which doesn’t really renew if it gets damaged,” said the University of Washington’s Dr Michael Diamond. “That is the problem.”

The Zika-infected mice were also able to knock female mice up with just a quarter of the success of a healthy mouse.

“I think this is an important finding [in mice], but this has to be tested in humans,” said Dr Diamond in an interview with The Scientist. “This virus is from a class of viruses that causes cell death in a lot of cells, so it’s not hard to extrapolate that if you had a lot of virus in a tissue for a long period of time, then cells would die.

“That said, we absolutely don’t know what the extent of this will be in humans… The only way to find out is to track men longitudinally.” [Nature via RT]

Image: Adrian Hendy via Flickr