Study: Gardnerella vaginalis – links with male infertility?

Researchers have examined men attending sexual health clinics, to see if Gardnerella vaginalis found in men has any bearing on their fertility. 

G. vaginalis has been found in men with cystitis, prostatitis, and balanoposthitis. G. vaginalis remains a sexually transmitted bacteria responsible for bacterial vaginosis in women.

G. vaginalis has been found in the semen of men attending fertility clinics, in rates up to 44 per cent. The question is, does it affect sperm quality and cause or contribute to infertility in men? The answer, it seems, is no.

The study into male infertility and G. vaginalis

One-hundred-and-eight infertile men gave a semen sample via masturbation after a period of 3-5 days of abstinence. The age range was 28-50, of men who had been referred for semen analysis before treatment. The men had a history of infertility lasting at least one year.

A control group of 24 fertile men was set up, with the men having fathered children in the previous year.

Twenty-four of the 108 samples were positive for G. vaginalis, with the control group showing no infections. Overall, the infected and non-infected sperm looked more or less the same, with researchers concluding that G. vaginalis does not affect sperm quality.

While the major methods of comparison of healthy or unhealthy sperm were unaffected, infected semen showed significant differences in vitality, rapid and total progressive motility, normal head and mid-piece defects, and combined anomalies compared to the control group.

Infected semen also showed significant differences in severely amorphous and tapered sperm. Bacteriospermia and cells with attached bacteria were observed, considered remarkable by researchers.

References

Andrade-Rocha, F. (2009). Colonization of Gardnerella vaginalis in semen of infertile men: Prevalence, influence on sperm characteristics, relationship with leukocyte concentration and clinical significanceGynecologic and Obstetric Investigation,68(2), 134-6.



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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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