With emerging new viruses, human semen and viral infections is a hot topic to discuss. The most common viral infection in human beings is influenza or common cold. Which spread is worldwide and almost whole population suffer twice or thrice in a year. It is more troublesome in cold countries and cold weather. In this chapter, we focus our attention on the association of Human semen and viral infections. Plus we also aim is to include present pandemic Covid-19 in this discussion.
Study type: retrograde
With plentiful of evidences it can be stated that infections are known underlying cause of infertility. The infectious agent may be bacterial, parasitic, fungal, viral etc. In this discussion we will focus on viral infection only. Additionally we will explain long lasting and short-lived impact of viral infection on semen parameters. The well known viral infection leading to male infertility is mumps. Herpes virus, HBV, HPV, etc may also affect sperm parameters adversely. The febrile illness caused by viral infection or what ever may be the reason, is evidently affecting semen parameters, usually short-lived.
Mumps virus is an RNA virus. It attack testis in early stage of infection. As a result of inflammatory reaction it destroy testicular parenchyma and also reduce androgen production. One favorable point that mumps virus usually affect parotid glands. Testes involvement occur only in 25 – 30% of cases. Secondly mumps is rare now since availability of vaccine for mumps.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
There are reports that HBV reduce the stability of sperm chromosome. It also affect sperm morphology and sperm viability. However there is insufficient data related to HBV infection and sperm function. More study is awaited to know final impact of HBV infection on different semen parameters.
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
HPV can spread by skin to skin contact, including sexual contact and all other mode of contact. It mainly involve skin surface and genitals. HPV is considered one of the common sexually transmitted virus which may affect fertility. HPV is a type of pathogen which induce chronic inflammatory reaction without any specific symptom. Moreover it is well accepted that all sexually transmitted virus can influence fertility. There are some known effect of HPV on sperm parameters. Like HPV infection can modify : sperm motility, DNA fragmentation and pH of seminal fluid. Above all many study indicate that HPV infection affects male fertility in one or other way.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
It is one of the common virus affecting the human beings. In usual case it is asymptomatic, but when it induce symptom it is very painful. There are studies , have established the relation of HSV infection with male infertility. But there is non -conclusive documented outcome.
Influenza virus (Flu)
Influenza virus affect human as respiratory tract infection. The usual cause of seasonal influenza are influenza virus A (H1N1 & H3N2) and influenza virus B. As any other febrile infection influenza also affect sperm quality as well as its production. Sergerie et al. reported that febrile illness of influenza may affect semen parameters and DNA integrity as well. This incidence may lead to future infertility, usually short lived. Some author also reported that influenza may also lead to transient release of abnormal sperm. Some reports on animal models confirm that influenza can damage sperm itself. Which will evidently result in infertility.
Another newly emerged viral infection is swine flu. Till now it is doubtful that swine flu have any impact on fertility. Off course acute febrile infection will affect sperm quality. But should not be permanent. Secondly swine flu is a kind of variant of classical H1N1 influenza virus infection. Hence suppose to have impact on sperm parameters. However there is no official report between swine flu and infertility. There is huge possibility of future exploration.
Its a new infection and it will be very early to comment its impact on fertility. Presently we do not have any report related to covid – 19 and its impact on sperm. In certain percentage of cases there high fever, which will affect sperm quality . May be short – lived or may continue for a period, right now no data is available.
Our Lab database
We are in sperm preservation for more than 15 years. Almost every year we face challenges of influenza virus with many of our donors. In general we noticed :
- In a large portion of the cases, when donors are experiencing influenza, semen parameters are not close to as it remain in routine. The reason may be febrile episode.
Sperm count reduced up to 25% to 75%.
Motility grade goes down one or two step.
Abnormal sperms increase in number.
Volume of semen decrease.
Sometimes we also noted shift in pH. Usually semen pH shift toward acidic side.
In usual case recovery takes two – three weeks. And after three weeks semen regain its normal parameter. But in case of some donor we noted that recovery takes longer, even 3 to 4 months.
In last most important : Result of freeze – thaw process remain exceptionally poor. Post thaw rejection remains very high. In simple word it is difficult to preserve sperm during and after (up to certain period) influenza virus infection.
With the noted database and references we can conclude :
Mumps is only know viral infection that leads to infertility to certain extent.
Any febrile illness can influence semen parameter. But usually it is for short period.
There are reports that HPV, HBV, swine flue, etc may affect fertility potential, But evidences are non-conclusive.
According to our database influenza virus affect semen parameters, but for few weeks only.
At this movement we can not make any comment regarding Covid – 19 and infertility.
We have reports that a few associations are misleading individuals with respect to Covid-19 and male fertility. This sort of lucrative methodology ought to be censured at all level. Especially in this extreme time when entire world is joined to battle against Covid-19, this sort of gossip must be proclaimed a culpable demonstration.
Presently it is call of time to manage infertility in most secure manner. All over world individuals are preserving sperm with various indications. Preserved sperms are even stored for an extensive timeframe, even years. The world is persistently confronting challenge of emerging and undetected infections. Our need ought to be to preserve sperm in 100% chemically defined medium. Utilization of any biological item (H.S.A., B.S.A, egg yolk, etc) for sperm protection need multiple reconsideration. Otherwise in future we may have to destroy preserved sperm or beneficiary may get some dreadful infection.
Conflict of interest
No conflict of interest reported from any source.
we work with limited resources and appliances. Therefore unable to give high end data. Rather we work with some simple parameters like : motility, post thaw recovery etc.
It is a retrograde and references based study. No grant or any assistance accepted from any organization.
I am thankful to our whole team of Frozen Cell for their supportive approach and co-operation. Even in the tough time of Covid-19 my team supported me to complete this study.
- Viroj Wiwanitkit, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2970791/
- Practice Committee of American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Vaccination guidelines for
female infertility patients. Fertil Steril. 2008;90:S169–71.
- Infection & infertility, https://www.intechopen.com/books/genital-infections-and-infertility/infection-and-infertility.
- Sergerie M, Mieusset R, Croute F, Daudin M, Bujan L. High risk of temporary alteration of semen
parameters after recent acute febrile illness. Fertil Steril. 2007;88:970.e1–7. [PubMed: 17434502]
- Induction of chromosomal aberrations in mice spermatocytesby
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