Impact Of H3N2 Influenza And Other Viral Infections On Male Fertility
Many viruses, including the H3N2 Influenza virus that is currently circulating in India, can have negative effects on male reproductive health. An expert explains how viral infections affect male fertility.
The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), monkeypox (Mpox), H3N2 influenza, widespread circulation of these viruses and more is posing a threat to human health. While India was gradually recovering from COVID-19 and Monkeypox outbreaks and returning to normalcy, another highly transmissible virus started spreading alarmingly in many Indian states. More than 1000 cases of Influenza A (H3N2) Variant virus have been reported in the country so far this year, with the highest cases coming from Delhi. Two H3N2 deaths were reported in the month of March (one from Karnataka and other from Haryana). Studies have suggested that COVID-19 infection can impair fertility in men, may be temporarily. Can the H3N2 Influenza virus also harm the male reproductive system?
To understand the impact of H3N2 infection on male fertility, we connected with Dr. Ankush Raut, Senior Fertility Consultant at Apollo Fertilty (Borivalli, Mumbai).
Dr. Raut says, "Viral infections have always been a part of human life, though viruses recently have become a significant danger with different epidemics. These dangers are linked to reproductive health issues, particularly male infertility. Many viruses are able to enter the male reproductive system, which can have negative effects on male reproductive health, such as infertility and tumors."
Influenza viruses affect the integrity of sperm DNA thereby increasing DNA fragmentation and decreasing chances of pregnancy. Also increases chances of having miscarriage and or genetically abnormal babies.
Influenza is usually associated with high fever. High fever may affect sperm chromatin structure, a tightly wound formation of protein and DNA in sperm cells, leading to the production of abnormal sperm.
Also, intake of heavy doses of the drug leads to male infertility by affecting semen quality and morphology. These drugs may suppress the synthesis of testosterone and produce oxidative stress, causing the death of sperm cells.
Painkillers which are used commonly in influenza reduce the synthesis of prostaglandins. Inhibition of prostaglandins adversely affects sperm motility.
Furthermore, some genital tract viral diseases can be passed sexually, possibly affecting the health of the offspring.
However, Dr. Raut notes that it may be difficult to assess the impact of viral infections on male reproductive health.
He explained, "Viruses target various cell types in the reproductive tract, and the cellular reaction differs between creatures. Because of the high degree of specialization among viruses and their hosts, the impact of particular infections on male reproductive health may be difficult to assess."
What to do if you catch the influenza virus?
Influenza viruses circulate throughout the year, but cases tend to increase during certain months globally. In India, seasonal influenza peaks usually occur between Jan to March and in the post-monsoon season. According to experts, cases of seasonal influenza, including H3N2 cases, are expected to decline from March end.
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Older adults, younger children, and those with a weak immune system are more likely to get severely ill with the H3N2 infection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends Oseltamivir for curing the viral infection. The drug is also prescribed by the Union Health Ministry of India. It is available only by prescription. People are advised to avoid antibiotics if any influenza-like symptoms develop. H3N2 symptoms include cough, fever, chills, breathlessness, wheezing, nausea, sore throat, body ache, and diarrhoea.