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Hum Reprod. 2009 Mar;24(3):530-5. doi: 10.1093/humrep/den414. Epub 2008 Dec 9.

Prospective evaluation of the threat related to the use of seminal fractions from hepatitis C virus-infected men in assisted reproductive techniques.

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Laboratoire de Bactériologie-Virologie, GIMAP EA 3064, IFRESIS, Faculté de Médecine J. Lisfranc, Université de Saint-Etienne, 15 rue Ambroise Paré, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 02, France.



The risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission during assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) is still disputed and no report concerning its prospective evaluation is available.


The aim of this 4-year follow-up multicentre study that enrolled 86 HCV-serodiscordant couples was to determine whether a sperm-processing method was able to reduce levels of HCV in semen and the risk of HCV transmission to the newborn. All the men were chronically infected by HCV and 10 of them by human immunodeficiency virus. A total of 181 seminal plasmas and 153 sperm fractions were tested for the presence of HCV RNA.


HCV RNA tested positive in 20.4% of the seminal samples. All of the 153 final sperm fractions tested negative for HCV. The detection of HCV RNA in semen was significantly correlated with a high viral load in blood (P < 0.05). The presence of HCV RNA in seminal plasma impaired neither semen parameters nor ART issue. From the 58 couples enrolled effectively in an ART programme, 24 pregnancies and 28 newborns were obtained. All of them tested negative for HCV RNA in blood.


These results emphasize the safety of the semen-processing method. The negligible risk of transmitting HCV reduces the value of the systematic analysis of HCV RNA in seminal fractions prior to ART. Since use of this analytical procedure involves the freezing of semen, its avoidance would result in an increase in sperm quality and reduce the need to perform intracytoplasmic sperm injection techniques.

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