Background: Use of a motile spermatozoa isolation process was assessed for reducing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) during artificial insemination in HIV-serodiscordant couples in which the man is infected.
Patients: Thirty-two HIV-1-infected clinically asymptomatic men, having a median CD4 cell count of 396 × 106/l and a median blood plasma HIV-1 RNA content of 414 copies/ml. Of these, 16 were infected with both HIV and HCV.
Methods: Motile spermatozoa were isolated from 51 semen samples by density gradient and ‘swim-up'. HIV-1 and HCV genomes were detected and quantified in the blood plasma and seminal plasma, and detected in seminal cell fractions obtained during spermatozoa isolation.
Results: HIV-1 RNA was detected in 30% of seminal plasma samples. HIV-1 genomes were found in 18% of seminal cell samples, but in none of the motile spermatozoa fractions after ‘swim-up'. There was no correlation between the HIV-1 RNA concentrations in the blood and seminal plasma. HIV-1 genome was detected intermittently in patients who gave more than one sample. HCV RNA was detected in 20% of seminal plasma samples from HCV viraemic patients, but in no seminal cells or motile spermatozoa fractions.
Conclusions: Purification of motile spermatozoa by density gradient plus ‘swim-up’ reduced the HIV-1 and HCV genomes in the semen of infected individuals to undetectable levels. This method, associated with a standardized virus assay, could be useful for serodiscordant couples (males infected) who wish to have children.