A new study has discovered kissing and infertility linked through herpes HHV-6A.
Researchers investigating the little-known member of the herpesvirus family have now observed a link between the HHV-6A virus and unexplained infertility in women. What’s more, the virus is spread by exposure to saliva, which means that you can get it through kissing an infected person.
One of nine types of herpes, a group that includes varicella zoster or chickenpox, herpes simplex 1 and 2 which produce cold sores and genital herpes and the Epstein Barr virus which causes mononucleosis, the HHV-6 virus was first discovered in 1986 and has two variants, A and B, with HHV-6B already identified to cause roseola in children, an illness presenting with symptoms of high fever and a skin rash.
But previous studies showing evidence of HHV-6 in the genital tract secretions of pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as evidence of in-vitro infection of cervical cells led researchers from the University of Ferrara in Italy and the University of Geneva in Switzerland to investigate the relationship between HHV-6 female infertility.
The results were surprising.
The study involved 66 women, 30 of which had unexplained infertility (characterized by an the absence of pathological determinants) and 36 were known to be fertile women with at least one previous successful pregnancy. Researchers found evidence of the HHV-6A virus in the uterine lining of 43 per cent of women in the unexplained infertility group and no evidence of the virus in the uterine lining of the fertile women.
“Our study indicates, for the first time, that HHV-6A infection might be an important factor in female unexplained infertility development,” say the study’s authors, whose research is published in the scientific journal Plos One.
While the authors caution that further studies are needed to confirm the link between HHV-6A and female infertility, the results are shocking nonetheless. Currently, 25 per cent of infertility cases in women go unexplained, thus the new findings offer a ray of hope for many of those wishing to have children but are faced with unknown factors contributing to infertility.
“This is a surprising discovery,” says Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School who has studied HHV-6. “If confirmed, the finding has the potential to improve the outcome for a large subset of infertile women.”
Infertility affects an estimated 16 per cent of couples in Canada, according to Health Canada, with a determining factor on the man’s side being identified 30 per cent of the time and a determining cause on the woman’s side identified 40 per cent of the time.
For women, a range of factors have been found to be at play, such as age, problems producing eggs, sexually transmitted diseases, endometriosis and hormone imbalances. A 2012 study found that the prevalence of infertility in Canada has nearly doubled over the past two decades, with infertility rates rising among both younger and older women and the use of assisted-procreation technologies increasing dramatically.