Study Finds Obscure Form of Herpes in Many Infertile Women

pregnant girl, virus
Disease Research

A new Italian study has shown promise to reveal why some women with unexplained fertility issues are unable to conceive. It was discovered that 43 percent of these women had copies of the HHV-6A virus, compared to no women who have had a successful pregnancy in the past.

Not much is known about the HHV-6A virus, except that it was discovered in 1986 and it is not detectable via blood or saliva. Because of this, it is impossible to tell how many people actually unknowingly carry the virus. Research previously conducted has linked HHV-6A DNA with miscarriages and premature rupture of membranes, but this is the first study to analyze how it may impact fertility in those carrying the virus.

The study itself was relatively small, with only 66 participants, 30 women with unexplained infertility and 36 women who have successfully delivered a baby. Each woman had a sample taken from their womb linings. In addition to finding that only the women with unexplained infertility carried HHV-6A, they also found that they had a higher rate of the reproductive hormone estradiol. What’s more, the researchers found these women to have different immune system signaling molecules as compared to the women without HHV-6A.

Those infected with HHV-6A often contract the virus in early childhood. Its only symptom is typically a mild rash, and since it does not show up in the blood or saliva, most people are unaware that they have contracted it.

The virus lives in the body in an inactive state, however, researchers have noted 50 different conditions they think could activate it, which could lead to an inability to conceive. The other ways in which HHV-6A can impact someone’s health when activated are currently unknown and under investigation.

Researchers state that the HHV-6A virus could be one of the reasons that many women are unable to conceive without a known cause, but conclude that further research is needed to answer this definitively.

In the future, it may be possible to use antiviral medication to help make the womb a more favorable place for conception. However, a new drug would have to be developed in order to treat the HHV-6A virus specifically.

Additional Sources:

National Health Services (NHS)