Seminal tract infections

The seminal tract is the channels the sperm goes through on their way from the testicles to the outside of the body. If there is an infection at some point in this path, sperms are forced to go through the infected area, which can damage them and affect their ability to fertilize the egg.

Most seminal infections can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. If the sperm quality is still insufficient, an In-Vitro Fertilization with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (IVF + ICSI) is the best treatment to achieve pregnancy.

What is a seminal tract infection?

The seminal tract is the channels the sperm goes through on their way from the testicles to the outside of the body. If there is an infection at some point in this path, sperms are forced to go through the infected area, which can damage them and affect their ability to fertilize the egg.

Seminal tract infections affect fertility in several ways:

  1. By obstructing the seminal tract, which may prevent sperm from being released during orgasm (azoospermia) or cause a low sperm count (oligozoospermia) in semen.
  2. When attached to sperms, bacteria may decrease their motility (asthenozoospermia) and prevent them from reaching the egg
  3. They may cause changes to sperm morphology (teratozoospermia)
  4. They may increase sperm DNA fragmentation index, which compromises embryo implantation and pregnancy development
  5. By favoring the production of antisperm-antibodies, thus reducing fertilization probabilities
  6. They may infect female reproductive organs by spreading through the semen

Seminal tract infections main symptoms

Seminal tract infections seldom have symptoms. It is common for them to remain unidentified for long periods of time, generating problems that can lead to infertility.

In some cases, seminal tract infections can generate:

  • Semen anomalies
  • Irritation
  • Itch
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Urethral discharge
  • Infertility

If you have any of these symptoms, refrain from having intercourse and schedule a doctor’s appointment immediately.

Seminal tract infections causes

Seminal infections can be caused by the presence of harmful microorganisms in the prostate, seminal vesicles, vas deferens, epididymis and/or testicles.

These microorganisms are often transmitted during unprotected sex. Any sexually active man can develop a seminal infection, however, the risk is proportional to the number of sexual partners you have or have had.

How are seminal tract infections diagnosed?

In addition to a medical history analysis and a few minutes painless genital check-up, it is necessary to perform a spermatic culture or (microbiological control of the semen sample).

Current microbiological diagnostic techniques facilitate the detection of a large number of germs that affect semen quality and lead to male infertility , including parasites, bacteria and fungi.

It is important the diagnosis is performed by an experienced specialist, as there are numerous types of microorganisms that can cause seminal tract infections and each one requires a specific treatment.

Similarly, it is advisable to perform a spermiogram (or semen analysis) to rule out sperm concentration, motility and morphology problems.

Treatments to achieve pregnancy in patients with seminal tract infections

In most cases, seminal tract infections can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics.

Infected men should refrain from having intercourse until they and their sexual partners have been treated. Otherwise, they will have high reinfection probabilities and experience serious complications in their reproductive health. To ensure the therapy has been effective, it is recommended to perform further controls.

If the sperm quality is insufficient, In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) coupled with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Microinjection (IVF + ICSI) is the best option. In this specialized procedure a single sperm is carefully introduced directly into the cytoplasm of a mature egg using a microscopic needle via micromanipulation. This technique offers the highest pregnancy rates by disregarding sperm motility as a necessity to fertilize the egg. This is thus the best option for couples with abnormal semen parameters.

If the patient has an infection or the presence of leukocytes is determined in the semen sample analysis, he must go through an appropriate treatment before starting an In-Vitro Fertilization cycle.

Similarly, it is prudent to perform a sperm DNA fragmentation test before starting any Assisted Reproduction Treatment since a high fragmentation rate could affect the procedure success rate.