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Effects of Infection on Sperm


17 October 2007

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Washington, DC- Sexually transmitted diseases affect male fertility on the level of physiological function as well as on a molecular genetic level. At the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers presented new studies on the impact STIs have on sperm’s DNA and on the use of assisted reproductive techniques to help HIV-discordant couples in which the male partner is positive achieve a safe pregnancy.

An international group from Spain, Mexico, and the United States found that infection with Chlamydia trachomatis and Mycoplasma sp. might contribute to reduced fertility in infected men by increasing DNA fragmentation. Antibiotic treatment to cure the infection resulted in decreased DNA fragmentation and the achievement of pregnancy for a large majority of the treated couples. Sperm DNA fragmentation in the male partners of 143 infertile couples was compared with that in a control group of 50 fertile males. The infertile men’s sperm exhibited a level of DNA fragmentation 3.2 times higher than that of the controls. Sperm concentration, motility and morphology also were impaired in the infected men. The effect of antibiotic treatment on sperm DNA fragmentation was assessed in 95 patients. After approximately four months of treatment, the patients’ sperm DNA integrity improved an average of 35.7%. During the course of treatment, 12.5% of couples achieved pregnancy, while after treatment was concluded, 85.7% of couples achieved pregnancy.

Researchers in Monterrey, Mexico investigated the effect of HIV infection on the DNA maturation process and the integrity of sperm cells. They found that the HIV-positive patients’ sperm chromatin did not exhibit any increased incidence of alteration in

comparison to the healthy controls’. There was also no correlation between the patients’ viral load and sperm chromatin alteration or the semen parameters of concentration, motility or morphology.

Dr. Anne Kiessling and her colleagues have shown that HIV infection need not be a barrier to fatherhood. Over six years, from 2000 to 2006, the group evaluated semen specimens from 262 HIV-positive men. Semen specimens that tested positive for the presence of the HIV virus were discarded; specimens with undetectable viral loads were washed, frozen, and shipped to the patients’ infertility centers for use in assisted reproduction procedures After freezing two sperm specimens with an undetectable viral load, 151 couples went on to have IVF or artificial insemination. By the end of 2006, 69 pregnancies had been initiated, with 62 babies born. All of the mothers and babies tested negative for the HIV antibody.

Steven J. Ory, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, commented, “Assisted reproduction for patients living with HIV has been shown to be safe when the correct protocols are followed; it is very encouraging to see also that HIV does not cause damage to sperm’s DNA.”

O-12, Fernandez et al, Frequency of sperm cells with fragmented DNA in males infected with Chlamydia trachomatis and Mycoplasma sp., determined with the sperm chromatin dispersion, test.

O-49, Ayala et al, Evaluation of sperm chromatin integrity and seminal quality in HIV positive patients.

O-109, Kiessling et al, Assisted reproduction with sperm from HIV-infected men.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, founded in 1944, is an organization of more than 8,000 physicians, researchers, nurses, technicians, and other professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and expertise in reproductive biology. Affiliated societies include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, The Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and the Society of Reproductive Surgeons.

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Date Added: 17 October 2007   Date Updated: 17 October 2007
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