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Sperm quality linked to some recurrent pregnancy loss



Couples with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) might benefit from seminal parameter testing, based on results from a study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Dr. Anastasia P. Dimakopoulou, clinical research fellow at Imperial College, London

Dr. Anastasia P. Dimakopoulou

Sperm quality was more likely to be impaired in the 50 male partners of women with recurrent pregnancy loss than it was in a control group of 63 similar-age men, reported Anastasia P. Dimakopoulou, MBBS, a clinical research fellow at Imperial College, London.

Recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as three pregnancy losses before 20 weeks of gestation.

The reported prevalence of RPL has been estimated at less than 2% in couples attempting pregnancy. About half of those cases are considered to be idiopathic, she said.

Sperm DNA plays a role in placentation, and previous study findings have shown that men in RPL couples are more likely to have higher rates of DNA fragmentation in their sperm. Male partners are not routinely evaluated when seeking a cause for RPL, however.

In this study, 50 men from RPL couples and 63 control men were screened for factors known to affect sperm quality, such as previous testicular surgery, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol intake, and smoking. In patients and controls, semen reactive oxidative stress, a novel biomarker of sperm function, was measured with a chemiluminescence luminol assay.

The proportion of men with abnormal sperm morphology, although modest in both groups, was significantly more common in men from RPL couples than in controls (4.5% vs. 3.4%, respectively; P less than .001). In addition, the mean reactive oxidative stress levels were four times greater in the RPL men (9.3 vs. 2.3 relative light units/sec per 106 sperm; P less than .05).

Consistent with the higher median reactive oxidative stress levels, the median DNA fragmentation index, which is likely to be linked to increased reactive oxidative stress, was more than twice as high in the RPL men, compared with the controls (16.3 vs. 7.4; P less than .0001).

In addition, the sperm volume was significantly lower in men from the RPL couples, compared with controls. The levels of morning serum testosterone also were lower in men from RPL couples, but the difference did not reach significance relative to controls.

There has been relatively little attention directed toward the male partner in the evaluation and treatment of RPL, but that should change, according to Dr. Dimakopoulou. She said data encourage a new direction of study, including the effort to look for treatable causes of RPL in the male partner.

“By pursuing drugs that stop sperm DNA damage, it may be possible to identify new therapeutic pathways for couples who experience RPL,” Dr. Dimakopoulou maintained. However, even in advance of targeted therapies, she suggested these data encourage investigation of male partners in couples with RPL. Although evidence of reactive oxidative stress may not define a cause, it broadens the scope of investigation and might have value when counseling patients.

Dr. Dimakopoulou reported no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

SOURCE: Dimakopoulou AP et al. ENDO 2019, Session OR18-5.

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