To investigate the possible similarities between the reactive oxygen generating systems of the leukocyte and the spermatozoa, and to identify possible biochemical differences between fertile and infertile patients, the effect of various stimulants on the production of reactive oxygen in fertile, fertile with varicocele and infertile patients was examined. Generation of reactive oxygen species by human spermatozoa was examined in 2 patient groups: a fertile group (14), which included 7 patients with a palpable varicocele, and an infertile group (16) composed of 7 patients with a palpable varicocele and 9 who remained infertile 6 months to 3 years (mean 20 months) after internal spermatic vein ligation. Various known stimulants of reactive oxygen generation in leukocytes were used to assess spermatozoal reactive oxygen production. Reactive oxygen species generation was measured by the technique of chemiluminescence. In the infertile group reactive oxygen generation was markedly increased by the calcium ionophore A23187 and the chemoattractants N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine and complement 5a (p <0.05). In addition, fertile patients with varicoceles showed significantly enhanced chemoattractant stimulated reactive oxygen generation compared to fertile donors without varicoceles. This finding of a biochemical alteration in the sperm of infertile patients and patients with varicoceles may lend support to the argument for early varicocele repair.
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