For decades I’ve been telling the students who take my virology course that, as long as your immune system is healthy, the consequence of JC virus infection is … not so much. But sexually transmitted infectious agents are some of the main causes of human infertility. In recent years the incidence of male infertility has increased. A new study has found a much higher prevalence of JC virus in the semen and urine of infertile men than in matched controls, suggesting that the JC virus should be taken into consideration as a common infectious agent responsible for male infertility.
Association between the JC Polyomavirus Infection and Male Infertility. (2012) PLoS ONE 7(8): e42880. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042880
In recent years the incidence of male infertility has increased. Many risk factors have been taken into consideration, including viral infections. Investigations into viral agents and male infertility have mainly been focused on human papillomaviruses, while no reports have been published on polyomaviruses and male infertility. The aim of this study was to verify whether JC virus and BK virus are associated with male infertility. Matched semen and urine samples from 106 infertile males and 100 fertile males, as controls, were analyzed. Specific PCR analyses were carried out to detect and quantify large T (Tag) coding sequences of JCV and BKV. DNA sequencing, carried out in Tag JCV-positive samples, was addressed to viral protein 1 (VP1) coding sequences. The prevalence of JCV Tag sequences in semen and urine samples from infertile males was 34% (72/212), whereas the BKV prevalence was 0.94% (2/212). Specifically, JCV Tag sequences were detected in 24.5% (26/106) of semen and 43.4% (46/106) of urine samples from infertile men. In semen and urine samples from controls the prevalence was 11% and 28%, respectively. A statistically significant difference (p<0.05) in JCV prevalence was disclosed in semen and urine samples of cases vs. controls. A higher JC viral DNA load was detected in samples from infertile males than in controls. In samples from infertile males the JC virus type 2 strain, subtype 2b, was more prevalent than ubiquitous type 1. JCV type 2 strain infection has been found to be associated with male infertility. These data suggest that the JC virus should be taken into consideration as an infectious agent which is responsible for male infertility.