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Flu outbreak reduces boar semen quality

An accidental outbreak of influenza A virus has been demonstrated to reduce semen quality in boars, US researchers found.

The researchers, attached to Purdue University in Indiana, United States, found this out when an influenza outbreak occurred at the university’s swine barn, resulting in the infection of 28 boars with influenza A virus (H3N2) and causing the death of 2 boars. They wrote about their experiences in the most recent issue of Swine Health and Production, a publication of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).

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Study on boar semen parameters

The article describes how the 28 boars, about 35 weeks of age, were enrolled in a study for semen quality parameters at the time of the outbreak. This allowed the researchers to describe the effects of the unintended influenza outbreak on sperm production, they wrote in the publication.

They described how the first observation of mild clinical signs of illness (intermediate coughing and lethargy) in 3 boars occurred in April 2016, 3 weeks into the evaluation of semen quality.

A microscopic picture of swine influenza virus. Photo: Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
A microscopic picture of swine influenza virus. Photo: Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Sperm collection had decreased

The scientists wrote how semen was collected from the boars once a week and evaluated for total sperm production and concentration, semen volume, and relative motility. Compared to previous collections, total sperm production was substantially decreased (26% reduction) about 4 weeks after the first observed clinical signs and remained low for 6 subsequent weeks, they described.

Semen production then returned to pre-outbreak levels and was maintained for the duration of the observation period. Sperm motility and percent normal sperm production were also slightly reduced 2 weeks after infection.

The research paper was written by Drew W. Lugar, Dr Kara R. Stewart and Dr Darryl Ragland, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States.

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