[Frontiers in Bioscience 1, e78-86, August 1,1996]
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CAVEAT LECTOR



OXIDATIVE STRESS AND ROLE OF ANTIOXIDANTS IN NORMAL AND ABNORMAL SPERM FUNCTION

Suresh C. Sikka, Ph.D., HCLD

Department of Urology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Received 05/30/96; Accepted 07/02/96; On-line 08/01/96

7. ROLE OF GENITOURINARY (GU) INFLAMMATION AND OXIDATIVE STRESS

Infection/inflammation of the genitourinary tract in infertile men is suspected when the semen analysis shows an increased number of leukocytes (>1-2 million white blood cells/ml semen) (2). Acute and sub-acute infection and inflammation of the male gonads and accessory sex glands can be associated with disturbances in both sex gland function and sperm quality (33). Some of these conditions (chlamydia infection, mumps orchitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy) can cause irreversible sterility, are invariably symptomatic, and are associated with leukocytospermia/bacteriospermia (34). Chronic infection and inflammation of the reproductive tract which can be asymptomatic also contribute to the infertile state. The impact of such asymptomatic or "silent infections" on male accessory genital organs is sometimes more severe and may involve damage to the seminiferous tubules or obstruction to the passage of sperm at the level of the epididymis or ejaculatory duct (35).

The precise role that genital tract infection plays, the exact site of origin of leukocytes, their migratory pattern, their mode of action, and the adverse effects that bacteria/virus and subsequent genitourinary-inflammation might exert on sperm function are not clear. Elevated leukocytes and granulocytes are believed to release various proinflammatory/bioactive cytokines, hydrogen peroxide, and other reactive oxygen species (15,16). These can cause oxidative stress and peroxidative damage to spermatozoa.

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