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Vet Hum Toxicol. 1994 Aug;36(4):281-5.

Effects of Borrelia burgdorferi organisms on the functional characteristics and membrane integrity of the canine spermatozoa.

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Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Two experiments were conducted to study the effect(s) of Borrelia burgdorferi and its metabolites (toxicants?) on canine spermatozoa, using B burgdorferi type strain B-31 and ejaculates from 5 sexually mature dogs. In Experiment 1 the spirochetes were cocultured with semen and incubated under various conditions, and in Experiment 2 the spirochetes were sonicated to release the metabolites/toxicants. The sonicate was then cultured with the semen. The parameters investigated were kinematics and percentage of sperm motility, morphology, and sperm response to the hypoosmotic swelling test and acrosome reaction. There were no visible physical interaction between either dead or motile spirochetes and viable or dead spermatozoa. Neither the spirochetes per se nor their metabolites/toxicants had any significant adverse effect on the functional and morphological characteristics of the canine spermatozoa. It is possible that the exposure times for incubation were not long enough for metabolites or toxicants in the sonicate to significantly affect sperm characteristics. Some investigators have reported that B burgdorferi contain biologically active LPS-like endotoxins. It is also likely that storage denatures B burgdorferi metabolites and other intracellular products in the sonicate and, thus, negates any effects the medium or the sonicate might have on the spermatozoa. The apparent lack of effect suggests that either peripheral metabolism or action on other organ(s) may be required for deleterious action of the spirochetes and/or their toxicants on spermatozoa. It was concluded that B burgdorferi and/or metabolites/toxicants do not have any significant deleterious effects on the functional and morphological characteristics of the postspermatogenic spermatozoa. Interaction of the spirochetes with in vivo conditions may be needed to adversely affect spermatozoa.

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