Detection of oncogenic human papillomavirus genotypes on spermatozoa from male partners of infertile couples

Standard sperm evaluation, human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA detection, and in situ hybridization analysis were performed in 308 patients undergoing IVF procedures. Oncogenic HPV genotypes were detected on spermatozoa from asymptomatic subjects.

Rosaria Schillaci, Ph.D., Giuseppina Capra, Ph.D., Carmela Bellavia, Ph.D., Giovanni Ruvolo, Ph.D., Concetta Scazzone, Ph.D., Renato Venezia, M.D., Antonio Perino, M.D.

Volume 100, Issue 5, Pages 1236-1240, November 2013


To evaluate the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) sperm infection and its correlation with sperm parameters in patients who attended a fertility clinic.

Cross-sectional clinical study.

University-affiliated reproductive medicine clinic.

A total of 308 male partners of couples undergoing in vitro fertilization techniques.

Specimens of semen were collected from all patients.

Main Outcome Measure(s):
Sperm parameters were evaluated according to the World Health Organization manual. The presence of HPV DNA was researched by the combined use of two HPV assays and a highly sensitive nested polymerase chain reaction assay followed by HPV genotyping. To examine whether HPV was associated with the sperm, in situ hybridization (ISH) analysis was performed.

Results of HPV investigation were compared with sperm parameters and ISH analysis. Twenty-four out of 308 semen samples (7.8%) were HPV DNA positive, but HPV infection did not seem to affect semen quality. Moreover, ISH revealed a clear HPV localization at the equatorial region of sperm head in infected samples.

Oncogenic HPV genotypes were detected on spermatozoa from asymptomatic subjects, but a role of the infection in male infertility was not demonstrated.

  • This study adds to the growing body of literature regarding HPV effects on semen parameters. However, this study does not demonstrate any effect of HPV infection on sperm function or quality compared to other studies that have demonstrated decreased motility.

    As more studies come forward and larger cohorts are added for a meta-analysis in the future, it will be interesting to see if there is an effect on sperm function and IVF/ICSI outcomes. If found to negatively affect fertility it could become a large issue given almost 1/3 of child bearing age men/women are carriers in the US per the CDC.

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