Should human papillomavirus testing be performed in men participating in protocols of assisted reproduction?


We read with interest the study by Foresta et al. (2011), which reports for the first time the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) in spermatozoa from thawed semen samples stored in a sperm bank. In this study, the frequency of HPV semen infection was 6.1% in cryovials from 98 oncology patients and 3.3% in semen samples from 60 controls.

We report our preliminary data on HPV-DNA in semen from men participating in protocols of assisted reproduction. In this consecutive series, remnants of semen specimens after diagnostic investigation of subfertile couples were analysed. No information about a previous history of HPV-infection or time of last sexual intercourse was available. None of the patients had a history of immunosuppression.

Samples were tested for HPV-DNA using PCR methodology, SPF10-DEIA/LiPA25PCR system. PCR amplified HPV positive specimen were tested using reverse hybridization probe assay which detected 25 high-risk and low-risk HPV types (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 58, 59, 66, 68/73, 70 and 74) (INNO-LiPA-HPV Genotyping, INNOGENETICS, Gent, Belgium). Overall, five of 17 (29%) specimens were infected with HPV (patient 9: HPV 66; pt 11: HPV 16, 51, 56, 66, 74; patient 16: HPV 31, 33, 44, 54, 52; patent 5 and 17: positive with unspecific typing).

These observations suggest that partners from men participating in protocols of assisted reproduction have a significant risk for HPV transmission. This is potentially important because chronic infection with high-risk HPV types can cause cervical cancer and pre-cancer.

In recent years, there has been increased interest in understanding the burden of HPV infection among heterosexual men. Much of this interest has been focused on the role of men in the transmission of HPV to women Wang et al. (2010) but reported rates of HPV infection in men vary widely. We believe that HPV testing should be considered in men participating in protocols of assisted reproduction, particularly in sperm donors.