The role of international transport of equine semen on disease transmission

E. S. Metcalf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Despite the numerous benefits of having the capability to transport semen internationally, there are serious potential ramifications if that semen is contaminated with a communicable disease. Bacteria: Many commensal bacteria colonize the exterior of the stallion penis and are not regarded as pathogenic. They may be cultured from an ejaculate. Alterations of the normal bacterial flora on the exterior genitalia may cause the growth of opportunistic bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumonia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus zooepidemicus, which, if inseminated, may cause infertility in susceptible mares. Contagious equine metritis (CEM), a highly transmissible, true venereal disease of horses, is caused by the gram-negative coccobacillis, Taylorella equigenitalis. Even with the use of rigorous testing protocols, the current techniques used may not ensure accuracy of results. Viruses: Equine coital exanthema (equine herpes virus type 3; EHV-3) is a highly contagious virus that causes painful lesions on the stallion's penis and mare's vulva. Although it is primarily transmitted through coitus, infected fomites have also been implicated in its spread. Therefore, it is possible that the virus can potentially be transmitted to the ejaculate through penile contact with an artificial vagina or sleeve. Equine arteritis virus appears to be becoming more prevalent in recent years. The most common method of transmission is through respiratory disease, but the organism can also be shed in the semen of asymptomatic stallions. Equine infectious anemia virus has also been found to be present in the semen of an infected stallion, although no evidence exists at this time that there is venereal transmission of this disease. Protozoa: Dourine, caused by Trympanosoma equiperidum, is a venereal disease found only in Africa, South and Central America and the Middle East. Serological testing using complement fixation is recommended for diagnosis. Piroplasmosis, a disease caused by Babesia equi or by a less severe strain, Babesia caballi, has received a great deal of attention in recent years due to the increased transfer of horses between countries. It is considered to be enzootic in many areas of the southern US, and is found throughout the world. The protozoal agent is most often spread by ticks, but mechanical transmission has also been documented; therefore, there is concern for venereal transmission if blood from an infected horse contaminates the semen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 3 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • International transport
  • Sperm
  • Stallion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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