Infertility Immunological Causes Of

Tage Hjort, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

According to the common definition of infertility, a couple is regarded as being infertile if conception has been pursued unsuccessfully for 2 years or more. The incidence of infertility varies in different parts of the world. In Western countries it has been estimated that 12-15% of all couples eventually experience infertility, either primary or secondary in nature. Besides a general physical examination, investigations of infertile couples include semen analysis and tests for ovulation and tubal function. However, in 12-25% of cases, these basic investigations reveal no significant abnormalities, and such cases are commonly referred to as 'unexplained' infertility.

Since the 1950s, autoimmune responses to organ-specific reproductive tract antigens in both males and females and so-called isoimmune reactions of females towards components in semen have been extensively studied as possible causes of 'unexplained' infertility, leading to the conclusion that immune responses may cause or contribute to the infertility in about 10% of these couples.

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