Herpes simplex virus contributes to infertility in men

13 Jan 2018

In male partners of infertile couples, infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV) appears to exert a negative effect on two equally important components of semen, spermatozoa and seminal fluid, which may in turn influence fertility, as shown in a recent study.

Researchers examined a total of 279 semen samples from males aged ≥18 years. All men had a semen analysis due to fertility evaluation following a failure to conceive with their partner after 1 year of unprotected intercourse.

Basic seminal parameters were analysed, with HSV infection detected by multiplex polymerase chain reaction (M-PCR) assay.

M-PCR assay detected HSV in 10.7 percent of samples, of which 7.5 percent had HSV-1 exclusively and 3.2 percent had HSV-2 exclusively.

There were significant associations observed between HSV-2 infection and hematospermia and a lower mean seminal volume, and between HSV-1 infection and a lower mean sperm count.

“Further studies enrolling a larger number of patients are necessary to confirm [the present] data and to elucidate the clinical relevance of HSV presence in semen,” researchers said.

HSV-1 causes oral and occasionally genital cold sores, whereas HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes. The effect of HSV on infertility may be caused by epididymal and prostatic function, as indicated by reduced concentrations of neutral α­glucosidase and citrate in HSV-positive semen samples. Notably, it has been shown that antiviral treatment (acyclovir and valacyclovir) can help HSV-positive, infertile male patients achieve pregnancy. [Nat Rev Urol 2014;11:672-687]

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