Lubricants Can Harm Sperm: New Product Preserves Motility

Results of a recent research study indicated most nonspermicidal veterinary lubricants decrease sperm motility during cooled semen storage. Juan Samper, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, of JCS Veterinary Reproductive Services near Vancouver, British Columbia, evaluated the effect of different lubricants commonly used for semen collection on sperm motility over the several days involved in transportation of cooled semen.

Lubricants are added to the liner of an artificial vagina to decrease friction during collection. These lubricants can mix with semen and reach concentrations of 5-10% of the ejaculate total. Scientific literature has documented the damage to human and equine sperm caused by common lubricants due to pH or ion concentrations that are toxic to mammalian sperm. However, several nonspermicidal lubricants are available for use in equine reproduction.

Samper researched several lubricants labeled as nonspermicidal, evaluating three ejaculates from each of five stallions. No changes in the motility of sperm were noted at the time of initial contact. However, after 24 hours of Equitainer storage, the motility of sperm exposed to all but one of the lubricants had decreased significantly compared to sperm stored without any lubricant. The percentage of motile sperm were: controls (no lubricants added), 64%; Pre~SeedEQ, 61%; MiniLube, 54%; Equilube, 39%; and Priority Care, 28%. This decline in motility continued at a significantly faster rate for sperm in Priority Care, Minilube, and Equilube, than that in Pre~SeedEQ or controls over 48 hours of cold storage.

These results suggest that most nonspermicidal lubricants can negatively impact sperm by reducing the motility 16-56% over 24 hours. Pre~SeedEQ is based on a human product that has FDA indications for use in human fertility procedures, such as artificial insemination or embryo transfer.

Veterinarians or breeding farm managers might not always be aware of the risks posed by lubricants. The overall costs of semen collection, shipping, and artificial insemination warrant the use of products that optimize sperm function during each step of the process.

About the Author

Juan Samper, DVM, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACT

Juan C. Samper, DVM, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACT, practices in British Columbia specializing in reproduction.

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