Purpose of review
To review the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) on sperm parameters, fertility and implication of the use of infected sperm cells in assisted reproduction.
HPVs are agents of the most common sexually transmitted disease and can lead to warts and cancers both in men and women.
A high incidence of HPV infection has been demonstrated in sperm from sexually active men with and without risk factors for HPV and from infertile patients. Semen infection is associated to an impairment of sperm parameters suggesting a possible role in male infertility. Interestingly, it has been demonstrated that when HPV is present in semen only a percentage of total cells are infected and the virus can be localized in sperm or in exfoliated cells with different impact on sperm motility. Moreover, infected sperm are able to penetrate the oocyte, to deliver HPV genome in the oocyte and HPV genes can be actively transcribed by the fertilized oocyte.
Recently an increased risk of pregnancy loss has been demonstrated in couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization and particularly when HPV DNA was present in semen samples of male partners.
To date, no effective treatment, control strategy and prevention is provided for men despite the reported high incidence of HPV semen infection. Because this infection in men is also a problem for partners, and because growing evidence suggests that semen infection may cause infertility and early miscarriage, more attention should be paid to male HPV infection. This study reviews the more recent literature about the role of HPV infection on sperm function and human reproduction.