Fake News: Latest Research Published By Chinese Scientists Did NOT Say Coronavirus Will Render Most Male Patients Infertile

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fake News: Latest Research Published By Chinese Scientists Did NOT Say Coronavirus Will Render Most Male Patients Infertile

Did the latest research published by Chinese scientists say that the coronavirus will render most patients infertile? No, that's not true: The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, does not go as far as the headline of the article suggests. The headline states infertility as a foregone conclusion, but even the lead paragraph hedges whether that will happen.

The claim originated from an article published by Thailand Medical News on February 16, 2020, titled "BREAKING NEWS! Latest Research Published by Chinese Scientists Say Coronavirus Will Render Most Male Patients Infertile - Thailand Medical News" (archived here). It opened:

A latest coronavirus research by medical scientists from Nanjing Medical University and Suzhou Hospital lead by Dr Jianqing Wang, Head of the Department of Urology, at Suzhou Hospital say that males affected by the SARS-Cov2 coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 disease will likely become infertile even if they recover from the infection.

According to the new researched published in medrxiv, an open source online medical journal, the coronavirus typically attacks the ACE2 (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2)) receptors in human tissues.


Users on social media only saw this:

BREAKING NEWS! Latest Research Published by Chinese Scientists Say Coronavirus Will Render Most Male Patients Infertile - Thailand Medical News

The very first paragraph of the story, however, couched the language by suggesting that males will likely become infertile. That is not the same.

Even so, the study cited in the article, which has not been peer-reviewed by other experts in the field, mentioned "potential risks affecting fertility."

Besides, in some cases, virus-induced testicular tissue damage might result in male infertility and testicular tumor [19].

The researchers at Nanjing Medical University said it "might result" in male infertility, not that it will happen for most people.

The research examined three studies related to the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. As of February 17, 2020, the virus has killed at least 1,775 people, according to CNN. The scientists specifically zeroed in on the incidence of abnormal renal function or kidney damage.

Researchers underscored that medical professionals should follow up with recovering coronavirus patients, as well as those who were treated for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The authors said SARS was a "cousin" of the novel coronavirus. They advised doctors should pay specific attention to the patients' kidney and testicular function:

Our results indicate that renal function evaluation and special care should be performed in 2019-nCoV patients during clinical work, because of the kidney damage caused by virus and antiviral drugs with certain renal toxicity. In addition, due to the potential pathogenicity of the virus to testicular tissues, clinicians should pay attention to the risk of testicular lesions in patients during hospitalization and later clinical follow-up, especially the assessment and appropriate intervention in young patients' fertility.

The study might serve as an indicator of future problems for people who have become infected with coronavirus, but the story in Thailand Medical News went too far. The article said it would cause most patients to become infertile, but the research study did not reach the same conclusions. The scientists offered no specific prediction about how many people might end up with fertility problems.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Read more about or contact Ryan Cooper

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