The potential impact of undiagnosed sexually transmitted chlamydia infection on men’s fertility has been highlighted in a study led by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which for the first time found chlamydia in the testicular tissue biopsies of infertile men whose infertility had no identified cause.
The researchers also found antibodies specific to the bacteria responsible, Chlamydia trachomatis, in the blood of 12 of 18 donors of the fresh testicular biopsies, indicating the men had been exposed to the bacteria, yet none of the men reported symptoms of infection or being previously diagnosed with chlamydia or any other sexually-transmitted infection.
The study, in collaboration with Monash IVF Group, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health and Queensland Fertility Group, has been published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Professor of Immunology Ken Beagley, from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, notes that chlamydia infection in men has not been as widely studied as it has in women, despite similar infection rates.
“Chlamydia infection has been associated with women’s infertility but much less is known about its impact on male infertility, particularly if men do not experience symptoms, which is estimated to be in about 50 per cent of cases,” says Beagley, who led the research. “When people have no symptoms they can unknowingly pass on the infection to sexual partners. This is the first reported evidence of chlamydia infection in human testicular tissue, and while it can’t be said that chlamydia was the cause of the infertility of the men, it is a significant finding. It reveals a high rate of previously unrecognized chlamydia infection and the potential role of infection in the failure of sperm to develop in the testes.”