Semen infections in men with primary infertility in the real-life setting

Asymptomatic semen infections are highly prevalent in men with primary infertility and are significantly associated with impaired sperm concentration.

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Volume 113, Issue 6, Pages 1174–1182


Luca Boeri, M.D., Filippo Pederzoli, M.D., Paolo Capogrosso, M.D., Costantino Abbate, Sig., Massimo Alfano, Ph.D., Nicasio Mancini, M.D., Massimo Clementi, M.D., Emanuele Montanari, M.D., Francesco Montorsi, M.D., Andrea Salonia, M.D., Ph.D.



To study the impact of asymptomatic semen infections on seminal parameters in men presenting for primary couple’s infertility.


Cross-sectional study.


Academic center.


Socio-demographic, clinical, and laboratory data from 1689 infertile men were analyzed.


Semen analysis was based on 2010 World Health Organization reference criteria. Each patient underwent semen culture test to identify common urogenital pathogens. Infections by Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma, and Chlamydia spp. were evaluated through a real time polymerase chain reaction platform. Descriptive statistics and linear and logistic regression models were used to test the association between semen infections and clinical, seminal, and hormonal parameters.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Prevalence of asymptomatic semen infection and impact of semen infection on sperm parameters.


Of 1689 men, 354 (21.0%) had an asymptomatic positive semen culture. Ureaplasma urealyticum (37.6%) was the most frequent single pathogen, followed by Enterobacteriaceae (any type; 24.8%), other pathogens (20.3%), Chlamydia trachomatis (3.4%) and Mycoplasma spp (3.4%). Positive semen cultures were associated with lower sperm concentrations (P<0.001) and progressive motility (P<.001). These latter findings were mostly particular to men with infections caused by Ureaplasma urealyticum compared with negative semen cultures. A positive semen culture was both univariably (P<.001) and multivariably (P=.04) associated with a lower sperm concentration.


One out of five men presenting for a couple’s primary infertility had asymptomatic semen infections, which were significantly associated with impaired sperm concentration. These observations point out the importance of an accurate investigation of semen infection in the everyday clinical practice diagnostic workup of infertile men.



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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.