Presence of human papillomavirus HPV in semen of healthy men is firmly associated with HPV infections of the penile epithelium

The association of human papillomavirus (HPV) in semen with HPV infections of the penile epithelium increases our understanding of the role of semen in the sexual transmission of HPV.

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Roosmarijn Luttmer, M.D., Maaike G. Dijkstra, M.D., Ph.D., Peter J.F. Snijders, Ph.D., Ekaterina S. Jordanova, Ph.D., Audrey J. King, Ph.D., Divera T.M. Pronk, Carlo Foresta, M.D., Ph.D., Andrea Garolla, M.D., Ph.D., Peter G.A. Hompes, M.D., Ph.D., Johannes Berkhof, Ph.D., Maaike C.G. Bleeker, M.D., Ph.D., John Doorbar, Ph.D., Daniëlle A.M. Heideman, Ph.D., Chris J.L.M. Meijer, M.D., Ph.D.

Volume 104, Issue 4, Pages 838-844



To study the source of human papillomavirus (HPV) in semen.


Observational study (CCMO-NL3248800010).


Academic hospital-based laboratory.


Healthy male volunteers (n = 213).


One penile scrape and three semen samples per participant for HPV-DNA testing by both GP5+/6+ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and SPF10 PCR to detect moderate/high and low viral loads, respectively; flat penile lesions (FPL) detected by penoscopy.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

HPV-DNA presence in semen and penile scrapes, and the presence of FPL.


HPV-DNA at moderate/high viral loads (i.e., GP5+/6+ PCR positive) was detected in ≥1 semen sample(s) in 27% of participants. Most men with moderate/high viral loads in the penile scrape also had moderate/high viral loads in semen (85%). Men with a HPV-negative penile scrape were very unlikely to have moderate/high viral loads in semen (3%). The presence of HPV in semen was associated with the presence of HPV in the penile scrape also on a genotype-specific level. Having FPL was a risk factor for HPV presence in semen.


HPV-DNA presence in semen of healthy men is common and associated with HPV infections of the penile epithelium. HPV-DNA presence in semen may result from desquamation of HPV-infected penile cells.

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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.