A recent study has given infertile men new hope of successfully conceiving a child with their partners. The culprit may just be a silent bacterial infection called chlamydia lurking within their bodies. According to Spanish researchers, chlamydia can damage sperm quality, thus causing infertility in men. They presented their findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference, based on a study done on 143 men infected with the infection. Using a new microscopic analysis technique, samples from the test subjects were analyzed and found to have a level of sperm damage more than three times higher than in healthy men. The sperm damage includes the level of DNA fragmentation, poor sperm concentration, increased levels of shape defects and poor ability to swim quickly.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, and is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. It is commonly referred to as the “silent infection,” because about three quarters of infected women and about half of infected men present no symptoms. Those infected with chlamydia often do not feel any symptoms until complications arise from the bacterial infection, occasionally becoming the cause of permanent damage. If symptoms do occur, they can be felt within one to three weeks after infection. In women, its symptoms can range from abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding between menstrual periods, cervical or rectal inflammation, low-grade fever, a yellowish discharge from the cervix that may have a foul odor, vaginal bleeding after intercourse, rectal itching, rectal bleeding, painful intercourse, painful urination, and the urge to urinate more than usual. In men, the most commonly reported symptoms are pain or burning feeling while urinating, pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis, swollen or tender testicles, rectal itching, rectal bleeding, and rectal inflammation. All of these symptoms are often disregarded by those who suffer from the disease, or are mistook for other ailments because they are non-specific. This bacterial infection is commonly spread through vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse, but in rare cases may be passed on by a mother to her child through vaginal childbirth.
Chlamydia has already been linked to infertility in women, but this study has conclusively proven using the microscopic analysis that the quality of sperm declines significantly if the male has the bacterial infection. This is an important breakthrough for couples who have been unsuccessful in becoming pregnant, because chlamydia is a treatable disease. Treatment for the bacterial infection is a course of antibiotics. Doxycycline is the usual drug prescribed, with one tablet taken twice a day for a week. The most convenient treatment called azithromycin because you take four tablets at the same time. During the study, 95 out of the 143 men were treated with antibiotics and reassessed after four months. Scientists found that an average of 36% showed a marked improvement in sperm quality, and during that period 13% of the couples got pregnant. After the treatment was finished, 86% of those treated got pregnant.
The significance of the study goes beyond the infertility issue. It is also a wake-up call for many healthcare professionals to increase public awareness about chlamydia amid the rising numbers of people who have this bacterial infection, especially in the 18-25 age group. If this growing trend is unchecked, chlamydia maybe killing those yet to be born.