Purpose of review: This article will highlight recent research into tubal factor infertility as one of the main causes of involuntary childlessness in women. There will be a focus on chlamydial infections.
Recent findings: The most common cause of tubal factor infertility is occlusion of the fallopian tubes due to an infection by a sexually transmitted agent, by Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The prevalence of diagnosed cases of tubal factor infertility (TFI) can be correlated to the epidemiological situation regarding these agents that was prevailing several years ago. This is partly due to the trend seen in many Western countries that women often postpone to try to get pregnant. Therefore, there is often a time lag between the acute primary pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and when women first consult because of fertility problems. Sub-clinical salpingitis is today regarded as even more common than symptomatic PID. Persistent tubal infections by C. trachomatis are also a common feature, even despite courses of antibiotic therapy. The current focus on TFI has been on the immunopathology of tubal chlamydial infections, for which differences in host factors, such as genetic polymorphism in cytokine response and human leukocyte antigen type, may play a role in the outcome of pelvic inflammatory disease. Hysterosonography is a more convenient mode for diagnosing tubal occlusion than hysterosalpingography. The use of new species-specific antibody tests for C. trachomatis has decreased previous specificity problems found when used to detect tubal occlusion in work-up of women consulting because of infertility.
Summary: Infection by C. trachomatis is a major cause of TFI. Many cases of chlamydial salpingitis have a more or less subclinical course. The tubal infection may become chronic in spite of antibiotic therapy. Immunological processes may continue after microbiological cure, which stresses the importance of screening for C. trachomatis in order to detect and treat carriers to hinder spread to still uninfected women.