International Dexeus Forum - 44th edition

REPRODUCTION > MALE INFERTILITY

“HPV and male infertility: a new risk factor”

Carlo Foresta, Department of Medicine, University of Padova (Italy)

Recently, new insights on human reproduction suggested a role for HPV in human fertility. To study the impact of HPV infection at sperm level, researchers have performed experimental studies demonstrating that infected sperm is able to transmit viral genes to oocytes and that HPV may cause pregnancy loss.


HPV and male infertility: a new risk factor

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted agent able to infect mucosal and cutaneus membranes of anogenital region, upper aerodigestive tract, and other head and neck mucosal regions.

HPV infection can be asymptomatic and transient with low presence of viral DNA and RNA and, for this, it remains subclinical and difficult to detect, otherwise it may persist and give rise to various lesions. The same attention and care used for female HPV infection have not been addressed to males and only recently HPV has partially been taken into account for men's health.

HPV DNA and RNA have been found not only along the whole male genital tract but even in semen and bound to sperm cells. Interestingly, the presence of HPV DNA at this site has been demonstrated to be associated with an impairment of sperm parameters. Recently, new insights on human reproduction suggested a role for HPV in human fertility.

To study the impact of HPV infection at sperm level, we performed experimental studies demonstrating that infected sperm are able to transmit viral genes to oocytes and that HPV may cause pregnancy loss by DNA fragmentation and apoptosis of embryonic cells.

Another study performed in couples undergoing IVF, showed a significant decrease of pregnancy rate and an increase of pregnancy loss when HPV DNA was present at sperm level. Finally, a recent paper demonstrated that HPV vaccination of infected men from idiopathic infertile couples, is able to improve viral clearance and increase spontaneous pregnancy.

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