COVID-19 endothelial dysfunction can cause erectile dysfunction: Histopathological, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural study of the human penis

Eliyahu Kresch, Justin Achua, Russell Saltzman, Kajal Khodamoradi, Himanshu Arora, Emad Ibrahim, Oleksandr N. Kryvenko, Vania Wolff Almeida, Fakiha Firdaus, Joshua M. Hare, Ranjith Ramasamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: A pilot study to describe histopathological features of penile tissue of patients who recovered from symptomatic COVID-19 infection and subsequently developed severe erectile dysfunction (ED). Materials and Methods: Penile tissue was collected from patients undergoing surgery for penile prosthesis for severe ED. Specimens were obtained from two men with a history of COVID-19 infection and two men with no history of infection. Specimens were imaged with TEM and H&E staining. RT-PCR was performed from corpus cavernosum biopsies. The tissues collected were analyzed for endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS, a marker of endothelial function) and COVID-19 spike-protein expression. Endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) function was assessed from blood samples collected from COVID-19 (+) and COVID-19 (-) men. Results: TEM showed extracellular viral particles ~100 nm in diameter with peplomers (spikes) near penile vascular endothelial cells of the COVID-19 (+) patients and absence of viral particles in controls. PCR showed presence of viral RNA in COVID-19 (+) specimens. eNOS expression in the corpus cavernosum of COVID-19 (+) men was decreased compared to COVID-19 (-) men. Mean EPC levels from the COVID-19 (+) patients were substantially lower compared to mean EPCs from men with severe ED and no history of COVID-19. Conclusions: Our study is the first to demonstrate the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the penis long after the initial infection in humans. Our results also suggest that widespread endothelial cell dysfunction from COVID-19 infection can contribute to ED. Future studies will evaluate novel molecular mechanisms of how COVID-19 infection leads to ED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number210055
JournalWorld Journal of Men?s Health
Volume39
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Endothelium
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Histopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Urology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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