Bacteria & Sperm Health: A Closer Look at Unexplained Infertility
The role of bacteria, healthy and/or unhealthy, has been shown to impact various health conditions. One the market today you can find thousands of probiotic supplements, all advertising different formulas, concentrations, testing, and more. We have spent the last few weeks talking about new research about bacterial strains in the digestive system and their impacts on various health outcomes (inflammation, blood sugar control, estrogen and hormone balance, insulin sensitivity among others) and the reproductive microbiome in the uterus. However, various studies have now observed an impact on sperm health depending on the type of bacteria present in the seminal fluid.
It is well known that the presence of sexually transmitted infections can lead to significant damage to sperm cells, however, the populations of bacteria that are normally present also affect sperm health. In particular, there can be (in decreasing order of population size) proteobacteria, firmicutes, bacteriodetes, and actinobacteria present in the semen. It has been observed in an animal study that in the winter months the population of lactobacillus (firmicutes) increases and the populations of pseudomonas (proteobacteria) decreases. Lactobacillus exerts a protective effect on the sperm health by reducing the harmful effects of pseudomonas, so there was an observed improvement in semen quality in the winter and a decline in the summer months (when the pseudomonas concentration increased and lactobacillus decreased) in this newly published study.
In human studies, a higher presence of lactobacillus in the male genital tract and sperm was associated with increased normal sperm morphology as well.
The health of sperm seems to depend on a healthy balance of the various strains of bacteria and too much of any may be harmful. However, taking in to account the role of probiotics and evaluating for harmful overgrowth of specific bacterial strains in semen may provide deeper insight in to the causes of idiopathic/unexplained decreases in sperm quality.
In addition to the type of bacteria, it is also important to evaluate for more advanced sperm function tests, optimal lifestyle changes, and the best dietary choices/micronutrients to support sperm health and fertility.
Zhang, J., Liu, H., Yang, Q., Li, P., Wen, Y., Han, X., Li, X. (2020). Genomic Sequencing Reveals the Diversity of Seminal Bacteria and Relationships to Reproductive Potential in Boar Sperm. Frontiers in Microbiology, 11.
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor. Please discuss with your healtcare provider and only make changes to your medications regimen if recommended by your doctor and under their guidance.