Infections of the reproductive tract represent nearly 15% of male infertility cases. The most frequently isolated bacterium in the ejaculate of infertile men is Escherichia coli (E. coli), which causes between 60 and 85% of cases of chronic bacterial prostatitis leading to sperm damage. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the negative effects of E. coli on sperm quality and male fertility. The E. coli isolated from semen is uropathogenic (UPEC) and can damage sperm in different ways. UPEC induces activation of polymorphonuclear leukocytes with the release of cytokines and reactive oxygen species, the latter being harmful due to their ability to induce lipid peroxidation and early sperm capacitation. Also, UPEC decreases sperm motility, vitality and mitochondrial membrane potential through direct contact or mediated by its soluble metabolites. The negative effects are higher with strains with specific characteristics such as hemolytic capacity. In vivo studies with mice models have shown that UPEC inoculated into the epididymis induces inflammatory damage with testicular mass decrease and low sperm concentration. Future studies are needed to clarify the molecular mechanisms by which E. coli damages sperm. This knowledge will make it possible to take measures to avoid deleterious consequences on the fertilizing potential of men.
Part of the book: Escherichia coli