Sperm viral infection and male infertility: focus on HBV, HCV, HIV, HPV, HSV, HCMV, and AAV

J Reprod Immunol. 2013 Nov;100(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2013.03.004. Epub 2013 May 10.


Chronic viral infections can infect sperm and are considered a risk factor in male infertility. Recent studies have shown that the presence of HIV, HBV or HCV in semen impairs sperm parameters, DNA integrity, and in particular reduces forward motility. In contrast, very little is known about semen infection with human papillomaviruses (HPV), herpesviruses (HSV), cytomegalovirus (HCMV), and adeno-associated virus (AAV). At present, EU directives for the viral screening of couples undergoing assisted reproduction techniques require only the evaluation of HIV, HBV, and HCV. However, growing evidence suggests that HPV, HSV, and HCMV might play a major role in male infertility and it has been demonstrated that HPV semen infection has a negative influence on sperm parameters, fertilization, and the abortion rate. Besides the risk of horizontal or vertical transmission, the negative impact of any viral sperm infection on male reproductive function seems to be dramatic. In addition, treatment with antiviral and antiretroviral therapies may further affect sperm parameters. In this review we attempted to focus on the interactions between defined sperm viral infections and their association with male fertility disorders. All viruses considered in this article have a potentially negative effect on male reproductive function and dangerous infections can be transmitted to partners and newborns. In light of this evidence, we suggest performing targeted sperm washing procedures for each sperm infection and to strongly consider screening male patients seeking fertility for HPV, HSV, and HCMV, both to avoid viral transmission and to improve assisted or even spontaneous fertility outcome.

Keywords: Ejaculate alteration; Male infertility; Sperm infection; Sperm parameters; Urogenital infections; Viral sexually transmitted disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytomegalovirus / pathogenicity*
  • DNA Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • DNA Virus Infections / transmission
  • Dependovirus / pathogenicity*
  • HIV / pathogenicity*
  • Hepacivirus / pathogenicity*
  • Hepatitis B virus / pathogenicity*
  • Herpesviridae / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infertility, Male / epidemiology*
  • Infertility, Male / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae / pathogenicity*
  • Risk
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / transmission
  • Spermatozoa / pathology*
  • Spermatozoa / virology