There are many factors that can affect a woman’s fertility. According to the newest research, a certain virus in the endometrium can lead to female infertility. Responsible for this is an infection with HHV-6A, which has a negative impact on women’s reproductive abilities.
What is HHV-6?
HHV-6 belongs to the herpes virus family and was discovered in 1986. The virus is considered the cause of roseola, which is also known as sixth disease. There are two subtypes of HHV-6: HHV-6A and HHV-6B, with the A-type still being relatively unknown. HHV-6 can cause a number of diseases including multiple sclerosis, myocarditis, pneumonia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The virus is transmitted through saliva and attacks the tissue of the uterine lining. A tissue biopsy can be used to test for infection.
Scientists Find a Connection Between HHV-6A and Female Infertility
In a study by researchers at the University of Ferrara in Italy, 30 women who suffered from unexplained infertility were compared to 36 women who had experienced at least one successful pregnancy. The researchers found that of the women in whom no cause of infertility could be found, 43 percent were infected with the HHV-6A virus. In contrast, none of the 36 participants in the comparison group were infected with the virus. According to the researchers, the virus can contribute to infertility by disrupting the implantation of fertilized eggs.
Natural killer cells, which are emitted by the immune system to make the virus harmless in the uterus, prevent successful implantation of the ova. The production of cytokines, which help protect cells against viral infections, also contributes to implantation problems. While women who are infected with HHV-6A may become pregnant theoretically, fertilized eggs are usually rejected. Previous studies have already shown that HHV-6A is linked to miscarriages and gestational hypertension. However, the impact on female fertility had not been established yet.
What Does This Mean for Infertility Treatment?
Unfortunately, there is currently neither a vaccine nor a medication that can fight the infection. Researchers are putting their hopes in antiviral therapies in order to render the virus ineffective in the future. However, just knowing that they have been infected with HHV-6A can already help women avoid unnecessary procedures such as artificial insemination, which can be both nerve-wracking and expensive.