The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is probably better known for its links with cervical cancer and other genital cancers than for its effects on male fertility. However, recent research has found that HPV can have a significant negative effect on male fertility. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus causing genital warts in both men and women. There are approximately 40 strains of the HPV virus that affect the genitals. The difficulty with HPV is that many people are unaware they are infected as they may not have any symptoms or visible warts. The Australian Government National Cervical Screening Program says that HPV is so common it is considered to be a normal part of being sexually active, with most HPV infections clearing up naturally within 12 to 24 months.
Recent research conducted by the University of Padova in Italy tells us that HPV can infect semen and as a consequence reduce male fertility. Semen infected with HPV increases the risk of early miscarriage, IVF cycle failure and infertility. It was also found that sperm washing can’t remove the HPV-infected sperm. Currently there is no effective treatment for male fertility affected by Human Papillomavirus.
In Australia there is an HPV vaccination program — girls as young as 12 are immunised for HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 prior to becoming sexually active. However, it will still be necessary for vaccinated women to have regular pap tests every two years, as not all HPV strains are covered in the vaccination.
US National Library of Medicine – Human Papillomavirus on sperm function
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Genital HPV infection fact sheet
Australian Government – HPV (Human papillomavirus)
Australian Government – HPV vaccination program