Background: Genital ureaplasmas (Ureaplasma urealyticum and Ureaplasma parvum) and mycoplasmas (Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma hominis) are potentially pathogenic species playing an etiologic role in both genital infections and male infertility. Reports are, however, controversial regarding the effects of these microorganisms infections in the sperm seminological variables. This study aimed at determining the frequency of genital ureplasmas and mycoplasmas in semen specimens collected from infertile men, and at comparing the seminological variables of semen from infected and non-infected men with these microorganisms.
Methods: A total of 120 semen samples collected from infertile men were investigated. Semen specimens were examined by in-house PCR-microtiter plate hybridization assay for the presence of genital ureaplasmas and mycoplasmas DNA. Semen analysis was assessed according to the guidelines of the World Health Organization. Standard parametric techniques (t-tests) and nonparametric techniques (Wilcoxon tests) were used for statistical analysis.
Results: The frequency of genital ureaplasmas and mycoplasmas detected in semen samples of infertile men was respectively 19.2% (23/120) and 15.8% (19/120). The frequency of Ureaplasma urealyticum (15%) was higher than that of Mycoplasma hominis (10.8%), Ureaplasma parvum (4.2%) and Mycoplasma genitalium (5%). Mixed species of mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas were detected in 6.7% of semen samples. Comparison of the parameters of the standard semen analysis between the male partners of the infertile couples with and without genital ureaplasmas and mycoplasmas infection showed that the presence of Mycoplasma hominis DNA in semen samples is associated with low sperm concentration (p = 0.007) and abnormal sperm morphology (p = 0.03) and a negative correlation between sperm concentration and the detection of Mycoplasma genitalium in semen samples of infertile men (p = 0.05). The mean values of seminal volume, pH, vitality, motility and leukocyte count were not significantly related either to the detection of genital mycoplasmas DNA or to the detection of ureaplasmas DNA in semen specimens.
Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that genital mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas seem to be widespread among the male partners of infertile couples in Tunisia. Genital mycoplasmas infections of the male genital tract could negatively influence semen quality. Our results also indicate that PCR-microtiter plate hybridization assay method provides a rapid and effective technique to detect human genital mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas which is useful for etiological and epidemiological studies of these pathogens.