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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Microbiota of semen from stallions in Sweden identified by MALDI-TOF

Al-Kass, Ziyad; Eriksson, Erik; Bagge, Elisabeth; Wallgren, Margareta; Morrell, Jane M.


Stallion semen is known to contain environmental bacteria and normal commensals, and in some cases may contain opportunistic pathogens. These bacteria may negatively influence sperm quality during storage before artificial insemination. The bacteria isolated depend on the culture conditions and method of identification; therefore, the aim of this study was to identify as many of the bacteria present in stallion semen as possible by culturing aliquots of semen under a variety of conditions. Eleven semen samples were available: five extended semen samples from one stud together with a sample of the extender, and six raw semen samples from another stud. Aliquots of semen samples were cultured on different agars and under specialized conditions; individual bacterial colonies were identified using Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight mass spectrometry. Approximately 55% of the bacteria could be identified, with 20 bacterial taxa being isolated from semen samples from the five stallions on the first stud and 11 taxa from the semen samples from six stallions on the second stud. Staphylococcus spp. were present in all samples, and Micrococcus spp. were present in all of the extended semen samples although they were also isolated from the extender. The number of bacteria in colony forming units per mL varied considerably among samples. Only one microbe known to be associated with equine infertility, Pseudomonas spp., was isolated from three samples, albeit in low numbers. In conclusion, bacterial culture followed by MALDI-TOF does not identify all bacteria present in stallion semen samples. In-depth knowledge of which microbes are likely to be present is useful in determining their effects on sperm quality and, where appropriate, developing protocols for effectively controlling microbial growth.


Equine semen; Microorganism; Non-pathogenic bacteria; MALDI-TOF; Semen extender; Contaminants

Published in

Veterinary and Animal Science
2020, Volume: 10, article number: 100143