According to a recent study, the Zika virus is now showing the ability to damage fertility in men. In a study posted in The International Weekly Journal of Science, a team of researchers explored the effects of this strange virus on mice and how it affected their reproductive health. The findings were not promising.
Dr. Michael Diamond, a professor of immunology, medicine, molecular microbiology and pathology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, led the study.
Diamond and his team used a mouse-adapted African Zika strain to evaluate the consequences of the infection in the reproductive tracts of the mice.
The mice exhibited lower levels of testosterone after exposure to the virus. Their inhibin B levels dropped and they were found to have developed oligospermia—a low sperm count in ejaculation. The virus further affected the mice by damaging specific cells in the testes, one of the male reproductive cell organs. The damage to the testes resulted in cell death and destruction of key components to the reproductive process.
The Zika virus, when exposed, spurred the development of microcephaly, a reduction in cerebral volume, in newborn infants. Now that a study has shown that Zika contributes to deterioration of reproductive health in men, more elements are added to the growing pot of alarm.
These findings, however, are incredibly slim and are weak claims to make without fully experimenting on humans who have contracted the virus.
According to the abstract of the premature study posted in the journal, the extent to which the observations in mice translates to humans remains unclear. This comes as no surprise as the researchers did an unfinished job at best. They continue the abstract by saying that the long-term effects of sperm function and viability in Zika-infected humans seems warranted, but they never say for certain that it is a given.
By using non-committal words like “seems” and “remains unclear,” the researchers have certainly lain down a heavy farce. They have succeeded in frightening the public and delivered inconclusive information. If Diamond and his team wanted to fulfill the necessary role of a researcher, they should have fully analyzed the Zika virus instead of jumping the gun to be the first with a scoop.
This new development of Zika tells us that not as much is known about this virus as originally believed, and that further research is needed to guarantee that the information is truly accurate. But the research that needs to be conducted must be thorough and factual. The researchers should avoid making claims and statements based on assumptions.
A CNN article on this topic opens by saying, “If you’re a guy mouse, the news about Zika’s effect on your sex life couldn’t be worse.” This comical opening is a perfect way to express what Diamond and his team have done. They have produced a laughable study that does a wonderful job at informing us about Zika and mice, but it never mentions human trials or observations in human reproductive tracts.
All of the claims of damage to male fertility are based on assumptions. Just like the CNN article said, if you are a mouse, you have good reason to be worried.
Another pitfall can be found in the claims made toward Zika. According to an NBC article on the study, the mice that were tested and used were altered. Their immune systems were suppressed, for an unidentified reason. This suppression completely voids the experiment since it does not allow us to see what the virus will do in natural circumstances. It is questionable if a connection can be made from the mice to the men.
Instead, the study shows us how a mouse without a proper immune system is ravaged by the virus. Hindering the immune systems of the mice is baffling and it leaves the public with a useless study on Zika that makes people wonder what these researchers truly do with their grants and funding.
There is currently no evidence supported by facts and research that can claim Zika affects male fertility. With this tricky and surprising virus, such developments are undoubtedly a possibility, but as of yet, proper research has not been conducted.
Progression toward fighting the virus has not improved either. A vaccine is nonexistent and current Zika safety consists of preventative action, such as avoiding mosquito bites and using condoms. If citizens truly want to fight back against this virus and understand its effects, they need researchers who will conduct thorough studies and produce valid results. Diamond, at the worst case scenario, acted as a fortune teller, and at best, only instilled additional fear into the public.