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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2024

Reduced bacterial load in stallion semen by modified single layer centrifugation or sperm washing

Malaluang, Pongpreecha; Wagner, Lisa Helène; Cojkic, Aleksandar; Spergser, Joachim; Aurich, Christine; Morrell, Jane


The presence of bacteria poses a significant challenge to the quality of stallion semen used in artificial insemination. The bacterial content of insemination doses arises from various sources, such as the healthy stallion, environment, and collection equipment, and is implicated in fertility problems as well as reduced sperm quality during storage. The conventional approach of adding antibiotics to semen extenders raises concerns about antimicrobial resistance and potential negative effects on sperm characteristics, and may not be effective in inhibiting all bacteria. The objective of this study was to determine whether an innovative alternative to antibiotic usage – centrifugation through a single layer of a low density colloid (SLC) – could reduce the bacterial load in stallion semen, and to compare sperm characteristics in samples arising from this procedure, or simple extension of the ejaculate in semen extender, or from sperm washing, i.e. adding extender and then centrifuging the sample to allow the removal of most of the seminal plasma and extender. Eighteen semen samples were collected from six stallions. The semen samples were split and extended prior to washing or SLC, or received no further treatment other than extension. After preparation aliquots from each type of sample were sent for bacteriological examination; the remaining samples were stored for up to 72 h, with daily checks on sperm quality. The low density colloid SLC outperformed sperm washing or extension for bacterial reduction, effectively removing several bacterial species. The bacterial load in the samples was as follows: extended semen, 16 ± 6.7 × 105 ; washed, 5.8 ± 2.0 × 105 ; SLC, 2.3 ± 0.88 × 105 , p < 0.0001. In addition, SLC completely removed some bacterial species, such as Staphylococcus xylosus. Although there is no selection for robust spermatozoa with the low density colloid, sperm motility, membrane integrity, and DNA fragmentation were not different to washed sperm samples. These findings suggest that SLC with a low density colloid offers a promising method for reducing bacterial contamination in stallion semen without resorting to antibiotics.


Single layer centrifugation; Low-density colloid; Seminal bacterial load; Sperm characteristics; Antimicrobial resistance; Artificial insemination

Published in

2024, Volume: 216, number: 7, pages: 111-117