Herpes simplex virus contributes to infertility in men
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]