Coronavirus could linger in men’s testicles explaining why men are more likely to be severely affected than women, a study has suggested.
The virus bonds with proteins in the body that are found in the lungs, intestine and heart – and also the testicles. It binds with cells that express the ACE2 protein, or angiotensin converting enzyme 2.
This protein is less prevalent in ovarian tissue, which could mean the virus has an extra place to harbour in men. Study authors said their observations showed men took longer to clear the virus from their systems.
They said: ‘High expression of ACE2 RNA and protein in testes leads to the hypothesis that testicular viral reservoirs may exist and play a role in viral persistence, and should be further investigated by larger clinical studies.’
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) men in the UK have a mortality rate of 1,728.2 per 100,000, while women had a rate of 840.9 per 100,000, meaning men are dying from the virus at twice the rate of women.
The study looking at testicles as a potential reason was carried out by researchers in New York and Mumbai, and followed 48 men and 20 women living in Mumbai who had been infected. It found that women took an average of four days to clear the infection but men took six days, 50% longer.
What should Men’s testicles look and feel like?
Most men’s testicles are about the same size, though it’s common for one to be slightly bigger than the other. It’s also common for one testicle to hang lower than the other.
The testicles should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard. You may feel a soft tube at the back of each testicle, which is called the epididymis.
If you notice any changes or anything unusual about your testicles, you should see your GP.