Coronavirus can cause erectile dysfunction months after a man has recovered from the illness, according to a study.
Miami University scientists scanned the penis tissue of two recovered Covid patients aged 65 and 71 who were struggling to get erections.
And, in what they claimed was a world-first, they found the virus was still lingering in there more than six months after they had been ill.
One of the men was seriously ill and admitted to hospital but the other only had mild Covid, suggesting anyone infected may be at risk.
Experts not involved in the study said it was the first evidence that Covid had been found in the penis.
The virus is known to be able to damage blood vessels and internal organs, and this research suggests it can block blood flow to the genitals, making it difficult to have sex.
It may do this by triggering swelling and dysfunction in the linings of blood vessels that run through the body and into the penis.
Dr Ranjith Ramasamy, who carried out the small study, said: ‘We found that men who previously did not complain of erectile dysfunction developed pretty severe erectile dysfunction after the onset of Covid infection.’
Dr Ramasamy, a urologist at MU, added: ‘This suggests that men who develop Covid infection should be aware that ED could be an adverse effect of the virus.
‘They should go to a physician if they develop ED symptoms.’
The study was likely too small to prove a definitive link between Covid and erectile dysfunction because it only included two men – it is not clear whether the virus enters the penis every time someone catches it.
And it is also not yet known whether the coronavirus being in the penis was causing the problem or whether it was a side-effect of damage elsewhere in the body.
Both of the men were past middle-age and one had high blood pressure and heart disease, which increase the risk of erection problems. They did not have erectile dysfunction before their bout of Covid.
HOW COULD COVID CAUSE ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION?
More than one in five men who catch Covid may be affected by erectile dysfunction afterwards, estimates suggest.
Scientists have suggested several theories to explain why the dysfunction may be happening.
The virus – SARS-CoV-2 – is known to cause inflammation, which restricts blood flow.
Blood vessels leading to the penis are small and narrow, meaning that any inflammation could impede a man’s ability to get an erection.
Dr Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endochronology at Hammersmith Hospital in London, has suggested the issues may also be linked to disruption in hormone levels.
The virus can cause levels of testosterone to dip, which in turn could impact a man’s sexual arousal.
Experts say that anyone suffering from ED after a Covid infection should see their doctor.