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Chlamydia trachomatis infection in male partners of infertile couples: incidence and sperm function


Pilar Vigil, Laboratorio de Embriología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile. E-mail:


Summary.Chlamydia trachomatis infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Its effect on male fertility, however, is still controversial. In this study, 284 male partners of infertile couples consulting the Center of Studies in Reproductive Biology (CEBRE) were analyzed. The incidence of C. trachomatis infection among male partners of infertile couples was 38.6%. There were no significant differences between infected and noninfected infertile men in any of the sperm parameters assessed (sperm concentration, motility and morphology). The results of the three bioassays developed to evaluate sperm physiology, namely spermatozoa-zona pellucida binding, acrosome reaction stimulated with human follicular fluid and zona-free hamster oocyte penetration, showed no differences between infected and noninfected men. Electron microscopy studies suggest that spermatozoa are active agents in the dissemination of the chlamydial infection; they could be acting as ‘vehicles’ for the pathogens. These, and other results, suggest that the possible effect of C. trachomatis on male fertility is not due to alterations in sperm ‘quality’ or function, but rather to the transmission of the disease to female partners, causing inflammatory processes and promoting the generation of antisperm antibodies.