Viral infections and implications for male reproductive health

Asian J Androl. 2021 Jul-Aug;23(4):335-347. doi: 10.4103/aja.aja_82_20.


Viral infections have haunted humankind since times immemorial. Overpopulation, globalization, and extensive deforestation have created an ideal environment for a viral spread with unknown and multiple shedding routes. Many viruses can infect the male reproductive tract, with potential adverse consequences to male reproductive health, including infertility and cancer. Moreover, some genital tract viral infections can be sexually transmitted, potentially impacting the resulting offspring's health. We have summarized the evidence concerning the presence and adverse effects of the relevant viruses on the reproductive tract (mumps virus, human immunodeficiency virus, herpes virus, human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and C viruses, Ebola virus, Zika virus, influenza virus, and coronaviruses), their routes of infection, target organs and cells, prevalence and pattern of virus shedding in semen, as well as diagnosis/testing and treatment strategies. The pathophysiological understanding in the male genital tract is essential to assess its clinical impact on male reproductive health and guide future research.

Keywords: male genital tract; reproduction; semen; sexual transmission; sperm; testis; viral persistence; viruses.

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis B / complications
  • Hepatitis B / physiopathology
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis C / physiopathology
  • Herpes Genitalis / complications
  • Herpes Genitalis / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Reproductive Health / trends*
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Virus Diseases / physiopathology
  • Zika Virus Infection / complications
  • Zika Virus Infection / physiopathology