Study Shows Hepatitis E, Associated With Sperm in Pigs, Could Be Cause of Male Infertility in Humans

June 21, 2024
Hepatitis E was seen to damage sperm in pigs, leading researchers to wonder if the virus could be a cause of infertility in humans.

A new study suggests that the hepatitis E virus (HEV) is associated with sperm in pigs, meaning it may be “both sexually transmitted and linked to male infertility.” Newswise has the release.

Hepatitis E is “the leading cause of the acute viral liver infection in humans worldwide,” and it is also endemic in pigs in the U.S. The researchers decided to explore its infectivity in pigs, “whose reproductive anatomy closely resembles that of humans.” They discovered the virus circulated in blood, was shed in feces, and was present on the head of sperm cells. The particles on sperm cells “could infect human liver cells in culture and begin replicating.”

HEV is linked to pregnancy and reproductive disorders, and it is also thought to lead to pancreatic and neurological disorders in humans. Clinical infections have been assumed to be “traced to fecal-oral transmission” historically.

HEV was detected in at least 19% of sperm cells collected from the infected swine. Its presence in the sperm cells also correlated with damaged sperm, “potentially altering their structure and decreasing their ability to move through seminal fluid.” The study authors are pushing for more screening for hepatitis E in human male infertility cases, whose causes are unknown 20-50% of the time.

About the Author

Matt MacKenzie | Associate Editor

Matt is Associate Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.