Male Infertility and Bacterial Infections
Infertility can be referred to as a condition where a couple has difficulty reproducing after about 2 years of unprotected sex. And one of the causes of male reproductive failure is bacterial infections. There are different types of bacterial infections that can cause male infertility.
Apart from bacterial infections, other factors that can affect male fertility include genetic defects; steroid hormone disorders, hypogonadism, spermatogenesis dysfunction, and ejaculation disorders. But the statistics on what causes male infertility varies significantly in different countries.
When bacteria infect the male reproductive system, they can induce a series of inflammatory responses that impair the male fertility system. And when this occurs, it affects the urethra, seminal vesicles, prostate, epididymis, vas deferens, and testes.
The known and common bacteria that affect the male reproductive system are Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Ureaplasma urealyticum, C. trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae, Streptococcus agalactia, and Staphylococcus saprophyticus. These bacteria lead to all kinds of diseases, such as chlamydiosis, gonorrhea, ureaplasmosis, or urinary tract infection all due to bacterial infections which can cause a male reproductive system failure.
How Bacterial Infections Affects Male Fertility
Chlamydia trachomatis is an intracellular bacterium, which can be found in the epididymis, urethra, prostate, and Leydig cells of the testis. Though C. trachomatis is a non-motile bacterium; the rate of propagation is so high that it can infect testicular cell populations i.e. sperm, Leydig, and Sertoli cells within 3 days by “hijacking” testicular macrophages, but how these infected macrophages transfer the infection to other cells of the testes is not yet clear. C. trachomatis infection induces deterioration of sperm quality and is also associated with a low potential for male fecundity.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is one of the causes of infectious diseases in men’s reproductive systems. When this infection occurs in men, it can cause epididymitis, prostatitis, and urethritis. And it is usually accompanied by a mucous-purulent urethral discharge. Research studies have confirmed that N. gonorrhoeae has a detrimental effect on male fertility. N. gonorrhoeae is a gram-negative bacterium that can attach itself to spermatozoa by its pili and then infects other cells, thereby disrupting their functionality. Spermatogenesis is thus affected and the morphology of the sperm is also equally affected thus leading to infertility.
Ureaplasma urealyticum can also cause male infertility. The attachment of U. urealyticum to the sperm decreases sperm motility but how it affects sperm quality is yet to be known. But research studies have proved that metabolic by-products of U. urealyticum, such as H2O2 and OH−, can be toxic to the sperm which indirectly has the potential of causing infertility.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa: The effect of P. aeruginosa on male infertility is less toxic than other bacteria, but it is a frequent inducer of orchitis, epididymitis, and urethritis. They often trigger chronic infections by eliciting low levels of inflammatory responses and also target sperm tail proteins thus affecting sperm motility.
Brucella tends to propagate and replicate itself in immune cells by escaping and regulating the host immune response thus spreading to the tissues. The maturation of phagolysosome could also be inhibited by Brucella which can also migrate to the endoplasmic reticulum thereby fusing with it to ensure its survival. When these infected bacteria proliferate in the male reproductive system, they can induce cytokines and thus produce a state of inflammation such as orchitis and epididymitis.
Escherichia coli is one of the most significant bacteria associated with bacterial infection-mediated male infertility. E. coli-induced male infertility is multifaceted and includes inflammation of the genitourinary system, failure of steroidogenesis and spermatogenesis, and also deteriorating sperm quality.
Staphylococcus aureus: Staphylococcus sp. is one of the most common bacteria that affect every area of the body causing different kinds of infections and diseases. Most evidence among them is Staphylococcus aureus which can colonize the reproductive system and affect its structure and function. Staphylococci are divided into two groups based on their ability to clot the blood plasma. They are either coagulase-positive or negative, and most of the coagulase-positive species are pathogenic and Staphylococcus aureus is one of them. Staphylococcus aureus is so pathogenic that it can also affect the immune system of the body including the cells and tissues that control the fertility of a man. This effect on men’s fertility can lead to azoospermia and oligospermia which is a condition of low sperm count or no sperm cells at all.
The Effect of Bacterial Infections on Male Fertility
The effective male reproductive system depends mainly on the effective spermatogenesis and synthesis of testosterone. A bacterial infection that is not well treated can cause tissue damage and possible inflammation. Malfunctioning of the tissue cells around the gonads affects spermatogenesis and testosterone synthesis thereby affecting male fertility.
Successful male reproductive ability requires functioning sperm cells, and if the bacterial infection is not checked, it can cause damage to the sperm cells themselves such as chromosome breakage, alteration of cell membrane structure, acrosome injury, including mitochondrial dysfunction. This action of bacterial infection invariably affects the integrity of sperm DNA and chromatin which are also very important in enhancing viable male fertility. And recent studies have proved that damaged DNA harms male fertility.