The Influence of Urate-lowering Therapy on Sperm Quality of Male Gouty Patients:A Prospective Cohort Study


Gout is a kind of crystal-associated arthropathy caused by monosodium urate deposition, which is directly related to hyperuricemia caused by purine metabolic disorder and/or decreased uric acid excretion. It belongs to the category of metabolic rheumatism. Gout can be complicated with kidney disease. The severe cases can occur joint destruction, renal function damage, and often accompanied by hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease and so on.

The prevalence of gout varies greatly from different countries. But on the whole, the prevalence of gout is increasing year by year, and the incidence of gout is getting younger. With the continuous improvement of living standards in today's society, middle-aged men have quietly become a high incidence group of gout.

The pathophysiological basis of gout is hyperuricemia, so reducing uric acid is the core of gout treatment. The reducing uric acid in patients with gout is a long-term process, and the drug can not be stopped after the serum uric acid is reduced to normal. Once patients with gout stop taking uric acid-lowering drugs, serum uric acid quickly returns to the pre-treatment level, which can not only cause gout attack again, but also bring the risk of kidney and cardio-cerebrovascular involvement if serum uric acid does not reach the control standard for a long time. Therefore, uric acid-lowering therapy requires the use of a minimum dose of uric acid-lowering drugs to maintain long-term uric acid levels.

In recent years, with the aggravation of environmental pollution and the postponement of childbearing age, the incidence of male infertility is increasing year by year. However, there are relatively few studies on the effect of gout caused by hyperuricemia on male sperm quality. With the rejuvenation of gout patients and the long-term nature of uric acid-lowering therapy, the safety of uric acid-lowering drugs in male gout patients of childbearing age during pregnancy is not sure. Coupled with the opening of China's comprehensive second-child policy, more and more male gout patients join this fertility group. Unfortunately, so far, no animal or human trial has observed the effect of uric acid-lowering drugs on sperm quality. For this reason, this study intends to carry out this observational clinical trial to evaluate the effect of long-term use of uric acid-lowering drugs on male sperm quality by collecting relevant data of patients with gout treated with uric acid-lowering drugs. Aim to provide a theoretical basis for the safety of uric acid-lowering drugs during pregnancy.

Study Type

  • Study Type: Observational
  • Study Design
    • Time Perspective: Prospective
  • Study Primary Completion Date: December 2021

Detailed Description

1. Research drugs. Three kinds of uric acid lowering drugs, allopurinol, febuxostat and benzbromarone, will be evaluated in this study.

2. Study design and sample size calculation. This study was designed as a single-center prospective cohort study. Age-matched sperm donors from the human sperm bank of the Peking University Third Hospital were selected as the control group. After a careful search of the relevant literature, there are no reports of similar studies, so it is impossible to accurately estimate the sample size. Therefore, this study planned to enroll 20 patients with gout who were using allopurinol, febuxostat and benzbromarone to reduce uric acid, respectively. And 60 normal male donors were recruited as control. It is planned to recruit 5 gouty patients and 5 control males every month. Therefore, the whole study needs to last at least 12 months after initiation

3. Research process. The process of this study does not affect the routine diagnosis and treatment procedures of patients with gout. Our research team is made up of doctors majoring in rheumatology and andrology. Therefore, we can make routine clinical diagnosis and treatment according to the specific conditions of patients with gout.

1) Screening period. It will takes about 2 weeks, including the following forms:

1. Patients with gout are in acute attack. According to the guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of gout, we should first give them anti-inflammatory and analgesic treatment. Cyclooxygenase(COX) non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs) or colchicine can be selected to control acute symptoms. Then we performed the semen analysis after the joint swelling and pain is completely improved. If the patient meets our admission criteria, urate-lowering therapy should be initiated according to the clinical practice. And we regard this time as week 0. NSAIDs or colchicine can be prophylacticly used for at least 2 weeks combined with urate-lowering treatment in case of gout flare.

2. Patients with gout in remission. For this kind of patients, we directly conduct semen analysis. If the results meets our admission criteria, urate-lowering therapy should be initiated according to the clinical practice. We also regard this time as week 0. And the preventive use of NSAIDs or colchicine is the same as above.

2) Follow-up stage. The follow-up cycle was calculated after the beginning of urate-lowering therapy. We will detect the blood routine, urine routine, liver and kidney function and serum uric acid at the time of screening and week 2, week 4, week 8 and week 12 visits. The patients will receive the repeated sperm analysis at week 4 and week 12, respectively. At the same time, we will collect all the corresponding data on the case report form.

4、Patient withdrawal. Patients can drop out of the trial at any time. Researchers can also persuade patients to withdraw for a variety of reasons, including baseline screening for sperm quality below World Health Organization (WHO) standards, adverse events, safety concerns, or patients' failure to comply with the trial regimen.

5、Eliminated cases. For some reason, those who are not completed as planned and whose observation records are incomplete are eliminated cases. Those who are interrupted due to serious adverse reactions should be regarded as cases of adverse reactions and shall not be included in the statistics of comparative analysis of semen.

6、Treatment regimen. Baseline screening: if the patient meets the selection criteria and is not in the gout attack period, we can consider the direct start of uric acid-lowering drug treatment. The choice of uric acid-lowering drugs should be based on the patient's drug use taboos for real-world choice. If the patient is in the attack stage of acute arthritis, we need to control the acute symptoms, and we can consider using COX non-selective NSAIDs, and then start the uric acid treatment after the joint symptoms are completely improved.

Uric acid-lowering therapy: the beginning of uric acid-lowering therapy must be combined with COX non-selective NSAIDs or colchicine to prevent gout.

- Allopurinol, the initial dose of 125mg once a day. If serum uric acid is not less than 360 µm/L after 2 weeks, the dose can be increased to 250mg once a day, and the highest dose does not exceed 500mg every day.

- Febuxostat, the initial dose of 20mg once a day. If serum uric acid is not less than 360 µm/L after 2 weeks, the dose can be increased to 40mg once a day, and the highest dose does not exceed 80mg every day.

- Benzbromarone, the initial dose of 25mg once a day. If serum uric acid is not less than 360 µm/L after 2 weeks, the dose can be increased to 50mg once a day, and the highest dose does not exceed 100mg every day.

7、Assessment. We will use three methods to assess male fertility: basic semen analysis, sperm DNA integrity analysis, and measurement of sperm damage via oxidative stress.

1. Basic semen analysis and sperm DNA fragmentation were performed at Reproductive Medicine Centre, Peking University Third Hospital using standard laboratory procedures, per WHO guidelines (2010 5th edition). This is a microscopic evaluation of fresh semen that assesses sperm concentration, viability, motility, and morphology. Frozen semen specimens were evaluated for oxidative stress damage by a clinical central laboratory specialized in molecular medicine.

2. Sperm Testing for DNA Fragmentation and Oxidative Damage:

The sperm DNA fragmentation assay was utilized to assess sperm DNA integrity based upon the literature report (Cytometry 1985; 6(3): 238-53) in which sperm DNA is stained with acridine orange and analyzed by flow cytometry.Two measurements are then produced: I (DNA fragmentation index) which indicates level of sperm DNA breaks and %HDS (high DNA stainability) which is reported to correlate to levels of immature sperm and somatic cells such as white blood cells. Sperm damage from oxidative stress (OS) was measured using the Oxidative Stress AdductsTM test (ReproSource, Inc. Woburn, MA) which measures by pectrophotometry the levels of molecules (adducts) covalently formed by reaction of lipid aldehydes present in sperm membranes under conditions of OS with cellular structures such as DNA based on the method previously described by Gomez et al (Gut 1987; 28(8): 1008-12).

3. Serum samples for the analysis of serum uric acid were collected at the time of screening, week 2, week 4, week 8 and week 12, or early termination.

8、Samples collection, preservation and destruction

a. Semen samples were collected by masturbation after an instructed period of 2 to 3 days without ejaculation in the semen collection room of Peking University third Hospital after signing the informed consent according to the trial scheme. After semen liquefaction (30 minutes to 1 hour), an aliquot was used for semen analysis and a second aliquot of raw semen was frozen within 2 hours of collection at -80° C.

b. Semen samples are uniformly preserved until destroyed after the end of this trial. The test time is expected to be 2-3 years.

c. At the end of the trial, the semen samples were uniformly destroyed. The frozen semen was reheated at room temperature and completely soaked in 0.5% sodium hypochlorite disinfectant. Finally, the disinfection solution containing semen was treated as medical waste.

9、Quality control.

a. Carry out publicity and education to the subjects to reduce the rate of loss of follow-up; b. Semen quality analysis system was used to detect semen quality indexes such as sperm density, motility, forward motility ratio and so on. Quality control of standard samples was carried out for every 10 samples tested.

10、Statistical analysis. We will use SPSS 20.0 software for statistical analysis. All statistical tests are bilateral test, P value less than or equal to 0.05 will be considered to be statistically significant. When comparing the difference of curative effect between the parameters before and after gout treatment, paired t-test was used if the measurement data were in accordance with normal distribution. Independent sample t-test was used for comparison among different intervention groups. Nonparametric test is used if the measurement data do not conform to the normal distribution. Chi-square test was used to compare the counting data between groups.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • The mean change from baseline to week 12 in semen quality.
    • Time Frame: At baseline, week 4 and week 12 visits
    • According to the current world health orgnization semen analysis guidelines, semen quality evaluation can not use a single index to evaluate semen quality grade. The change of semen quality needs to be evaluated comprehensively from three aspects, namely basic semen analysis, sperm DNA integrity analysis, and sperm damage via oxidative stress. Therefore, all the measurements will be aggregated to arrive at the reported value as semen quality.

Secondary Measures

  • Change from baseline to week 12 in serum uric acid level.
    • Time Frame: At baseline, week 2, 4, 8 and 12 visits
    • The level of serum uric acid in micro-friction per liter during the treatment of reducing uric acid were recorded in the case report form.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

1. Male, aged 18 ~45 years old;

2. In accordance with the gout classification criteria of the American Rheumatic Society in 1977 or ACR/EULAR (European Alliance against Rheumatism) in 2015 ;

3. Willing to receive uric acid-lowering drugs regularly for at least 3 months;

4. No drugs affecting sperm quality were taken within 3 months before screening.

5. Sign the informed consent form.

Exclusion Criteria

1. Patients who have a pregnancy plan during the trial;

2. Patients with severe heart, liver, kidney and other important organs, blood and endocrine system diseases, the evaluation criteria are as follows:

1. Heart disease: patients with a history of heart disease such as decompensated cardiac insufficiency, refractory hypertension or coronary heart disease;

2. Liver function: alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and/or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) ≥ 2 times the upper limit of normal reference value (ULN);

3. Renal function: complicated with renal tubule and/or renal interstitial lesions, or renal insufficiency: serum creatinine≥ULN or glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) <60ml/min/1.73m2;

3. leukocyte (WBC) count <3 × 109/L and/or hemoglobin (Hb) <100g/L and/or platelet (PLT) count <80 × 109/L;

4. Other serious diseases, such as tumors, etc;

5. Those who are unable to cooperate with the treatment of mental illness or other reasons;

6. Allergic constitution or multi-drug allergy;

7. Those who are known to be allergic or intolerant to uric acid-lowering drugs in the trial;

8. Chromosome abnormality or deletion of AZF region of Y chromosome;

9. Previous history of orchitis, epididymitis, mumps or varicocele affecting sperm quality;

10. Positive semen bacterial culture, or Chlamydia trachomatis, Ureaplasma Urealyticum and Mycoplasma hominis;

11. Those who have a history of exposure to high temperature, chemistry, physics or toxicants in the past year;

12. Those who undergo X-ray or CT examination in the past 3 months and during the period of enrollment;

13. When entering the group, the semen routine did not reach the standard stipulated in the WHO Manual for Laboratory examination of Human semen and sperm-Cervical mucus interaction (Fifth Edition), that is, semen volume>1.5ml, pH>7.2, sperm density>15×106/ ml, sperm motility (percentage of forward motile sperm, PR)>32%, normal sperm morphology>4%;

14. Patients with other systemic diseases who are being treated with other drugs that may affect semen quality.

Gender Eligibility: Male

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of uric acid-lowering drugs on sperm quality, so the inclusion of patients must be male.

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 45 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Peking University Third Hospital
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Jinxia Zhao, Deputy department director – Peking University Third Hospital
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Jinxia Zhao, doctorate, Principal Investigator, Peking University Third Hospital
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Jinxia Zhao, doctorate, +86-13810098187,

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