By Gift Briton

The presence of malaria parasites in the blood system of men suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) has been found to cause a decline in the testosterone levels of men and consequently reduces their fertility.

This is based on the findings of a research study conducted in Ghana mainly to investigate the effect of malaria and diabetes co-morbidities on the reproduction of male patients.

According to global estimates, by 2045, approximately 730 million people will be living with diabetes globally. Unluckily, over 20 million people are living with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa and about 1.5 million of these individuals have undiagnosed diabetes.

In order to carry out this investigation, the researchers collected blood samples of patients with T2DM, patients with both T2DM and malaria as well as normal individuals. The findings revealed that patients with both T2DM and malaria had much lower testosterone levels compared with the rest.

Dr. Benjamin Aboagye, who supervised the research project and also a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, said a male patient who is suffering from malaria and T2DM concurrently has a low chance or may not be able to cause pregnancy in the long term.

“When malaria parasite gets into the body, the human body tries to fight it. In the process, the body releases some chemicals called cytokines. These cytokines drive the body’s ability to fight pathogens. So, the longer these pathogens thrive in the body, the more cytokines are produced and it is believed that when this process continues it will also affect other physiological activities in the body which include sperm production, and the production of the hormone testosterone,” he explained.

Dr. Aboagye added that with a decline in the male hormone testosterone levels and since testosterone drives the production of sperm, its maturity and movement, then the sperm production, growth and movements are affected negatively.

“We found that the co-morbidities of malaria and T2DM cause significant reduction in sperm count and interferences with sperm appearance and movement thus affecting its vitality,” he observed.

Dr. Aboagye further explained: “The sperm has three parts; the head, middle and the tail. But when we looked at the sperm makeup in patients with both malaria and T2DM, we found that some sperms had abnormally big heads and some had a portion of the body missing. The abnormality in the sperm for men with both malaria and T2DM was really high.”

He also warned that if attention is not paid to these conditions, it may affect the reproductive successes of most men and may create a lot of problems in homes because the incidence of diabetes is increasing steadily across Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa yet a big number of diabetes cases still remain undiagnosed.

Diabetes is caused when a particular chemical called insulin is absent in the body or when insulin is present in the body but the body does not respond to its presence.

There are two types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2. For type 1 diabetes, individuals lack the ability to produce insulin because the cells that produce the insulin are damaged whereas for type 2 diabetes, the individuals are able to produce insulin probably in large quantities such that their body fails to respond to it with the majority of the people in Africa having type 2 diabetes.

“Studies have established that diabetes increases the chances of people getting some common infections such as malaria. Those who have diabetes tend to have a lot of glucose in their blood (blood sugar). The presence of blood sugar favors other parasitic infections including the malaria parasite to thrive and flourish in blood,” he adds.

Furthermore, the researchers also established that the co-morbidities of malaria and T2DM tend to enhance anemic situations in individuals since large amounts of blood cells tend to be destroyed for individuals with these comorbidities.

Since some people may have malaria parasites in their blood without showing symptoms of malaria disease, Dr. Aboagye urged healthcare facilities to always run malaria tests whenever a patient visits especially to patients who have diabetes so they can give holistic and appropriate treatment advice.

“People should more often check their status and try as much as possible to stick to all the campaigns that seem to eradicate malaria in our part of the world,” he said.