Scientists warn of sperm count crisis : “serious public health warning”

Biggest-ever study confirms drastic decline in male reproductive health

Jeremy Laurance

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The reproductive health of the average male is in sharp decline, the world’s largest study of the quality and concentration of sperm has found.

Between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a third in the study of 26,000 men, increasing their risk of infertility. The amount of healthy sperm was also reduced, by a similar proportion.

The findings confirm research over the past 20 years that has shown sperm counts declining in many countries across the world. Reasons ranging from tight underwear to toxins in the environment have been advanced to explain the fall, but still no definitive cause has been found.

The decline occurred progressively throughout the 17-year period, suggesting that it could be continuing.

The latest research was conducted in France but British experts say it has global implications. The scientists said the results constituted a “serious public health warning” and that the link with the environment “particularly needs to be determined”.

The worldwide fall in sperm counts has been accompanied by a rise in testicular cancer – rates have doubled in the last 30 years – and in other male sexual disorders such as undescended testes, which are indicative of a “worrying pattern”, scientists say.

There is an urgent need to establish the causes so measures can be taken to prevent further damage, they add.

Richard Sharpe, professor of reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh and an international expert on toxins in the environment, said the study was “hugely impressive” and answered sceptics who doubted whether the global decline was real.

“Now, there can be little doubt that it is real, so it is a time for action. Something in our modern lifestyle, diet or environment is causing this and it is getting progressively worse. We still do not know which are the most important factors but the most likely are … a high-fat diet and environmental chemical exposures.”

Researchers from the Institut de Veille Sanitaire, St Maurice, used data from 126 fertility clinics in France which had collected semen samples from the male partners of women with blocked or missing fallopian tubes. The men, whose average age was 35, did not have fertility problems of their own and were therefore considered representative of the general male population.

The results, reported in the journal Human Reproduction, showed the concentration of sperm per millilitre of semen declined progressively by 1.9 per cent a year throughout the 17 years – from 73.6 million sperm per millilitre in 1989 to 49.9 million/ml in 2005. The proportion of normally formed sperm also decreased by 33.4 per cent over the same period.

Although the average sperm count of the men was well above the threshold definition of male infertility – which is 15 million/ml – it was below the World Health Organisation threshold of 55 million/ml which is thought to lengthen the time to conceive. Other European studies have shown that one in five young men has a sperm count low enough to cause problems conceiving.

Combined with other social trends, such as delayed childbearing which reduces female fertility, the decline in sperm counts could signal a crisis for couples hoping for a family.

Sperm count: How to boost it

1. Wear loose underwear – to make healthy sperm the testicles need to be below body temperature.

2. Eat food low in saturated fat.

3. Avoid smoking, drinking, using drugs and becoming obese.

4. Reduce exposure to industrial chemicals such as those used in making plastics – they can mimic the female hormone oestrogen countering male hormones.

5. Protect women in pregnancy – there is growing evidence that falling sperm counts may stem from effects in the womb.

6. Avoid anti-depressants – in rare cases they can cut sperm counts.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/scientists-warn-of-sperm-count-crisis-8382449.html?printService=print

Study examines associations between antibiotic use during pregnancy and birth defects: sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: CDC Division of Media Relations
media@cdc.gov
404-639-3286
JAMA and Archives Journals

Penicillin and several other antibacterial medications commonly taken by pregnant women do not appear to be associated with many birth defects, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, other antibiotics, such as sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins, may be associated with several severe birth defects and require additional scrutiny.

Treating infections is critical to the health of a mother and her baby, according to background information in the article. Therefore, bacteria-fighting medications are among the most commonly used drugs during pregnancy. Although some classes of antibiotics appear to have been used safely during pregnancy, no large-scale studies have examined safety or risks involved with many classes of antibacterial medications.

Krista S. Crider, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from 13,155 women whose pregnancies were affected by one of more than 30 birth defects (cases). The information was collected by surveillance programs in 10 states as part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The researchers compared antibacterial use before and during pregnancy between these women and 4,941 randomly selected control women who lived in the same geographical regions but whose babies did not have birth defects.

Antibacterial use among all women increased during pregnancy, peaking during the third month. A total of 3,863 mothers of children with birth defects (29.4 percent) and 1,467 control mothers (29.7 percent) used antibacterials sometime between three months before pregnancy and the end of pregnancy.

“Reassuringly, penicillins, erythromycins and cephalosporins, although used commonly by pregnant women, were not associated with many birth defects,” the authors write. Two defects were associated with erythromycins (used by 1.5 percent of the mothers whose children had birth defects and 1.6 percent of controls), one with penicillins (used by 5.5 percent of case mothers and 5.9 percent of controls), one with cephalosporins (used by 1 percent of both cases and controls) and one with quinolones (used by 0.3 percent of both cases and controls).

Two medications—sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins (each used by 1.1 percent of cases and 0.9 percent of controls)—were associated with several birth defects, suggesting that additional study is needed before they can be safely prescribed to pregnant women.

“Determining the causes of birth defects is problematic,” the authors write. “A single defect can have multiple causes, or multiple seemingly unrelated defects may have a common cause. This study could not determine the safety of drugs during pregnancy, but the lack of widespread increased risk associated with many classes of antibacterials used during pregnancy should be reassuring.”

 

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(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163[11]:978-985. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor’s Note: The National Birth Defects Prevention Study is funded by a cooperative agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures,

 

PCB cocktails for two: Effects Second Generation

Re-Post for filing 2008

Contact: Judith Jansen
bor2@ssr.org
608-256-2777
Society for the Study of Reproduction

 

Since the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, awareness of how environmental toxicants can impact fertility has increased. In an article on p. 1091 of this issue, Steinberg and colleagues provide evidence that adverse reproductive effects of toxicants may extend not only to the children of exposed individuals, but also to the next generation. They treated pregnant rats with a mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and found that reproductive markers were disrupted not only in the female offspring of these rats, but also in the “grand offspring,” which are derived from oocytes present in fetuses of the treated females. Changes in the second generation included blunting of preovulatory LH release, reduced progesterone concentrations and reduced uterine weights. The use of low doses of PCBs in this study increases the potential relevance of these findings to reproductive health.