Just as a particularly bad strain of chlamydia appears to be slowly spreading among gay and bisexual men, researchers in Britain are finding that the STD can make men infertile by damaging the quality of their sperm.
The lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) strain of chlamydia has begun to infect gay men in Europe and the U.S. LGV is spread by sexual contact – oral or anal. The first symptom is usually a small, painless pimple or lesion on the penis, and appears three to 30 days after exposure. The infection spreads through the body via the lymph nodes. An infected individual can transmit LGV to another person for as long as there are active lesions (usually visible). Treatment involves antibiotics.
Men produce new sperm so quickly – and in such abundance – that removing the infection will rapidly improve sperm quality. After treatment, infected men produce many fewer genetically damaged sperm.
Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society, said that the emerging understanding of how chlamydia affects male fertility should change the way that society approaches the condition.
He says, “The thing that drives most men to sexual health clinics is symptoms, and chlamydia is often symptom-free. Chlamydia is getting out of control. We have got to encourage men as well as women to go for screening.”