Infertility is a rising problem around the world. Coupled with a current tendency to delay childbearing, the growth in the population of many countries has come to halt. Bacterial infections are an often overlooked cause for infertility. This is particularly relevant to the recent increase in Chlamydia infections among young people. When untreated, Chlamydia in pregnant women can be transmitted to the newborn. As a result, up to 15% of newly born babies are currently known to be infected with Chlamydia, reducing their reproductive potential.
Animal studies have demonstrated that exposure to bacteria during early development can lead to a change in the onset of puberty, as well as in ovarian morphology and sexual behaviour. Luba Sominsky and colleagues from the University of Newcastle, Australia, have shown that when infant rats are injected with lipopolysaccharide molecules that are normally found on the exterior of bacteria, the expression of genes in their ovaries changes, especially for genes implicated in immune-mediated inflammatory disease.
Sominsky et al. propose that during early development, immune factors are major regulators of ovarian development, so that an immune imbalance during this period may interfere with the formation of ovarian follicles, compromising fertility later in life.
This link between adult fertility and infections during critical periods of development may help explain the ongoing trend for declining fertility in young women worldwide.
For more information about this work, please see the following journal article:
Sominsky, L., Sobinoff, A., Jobling, M., Pye, V., McLaughlin, E., & Hodgson, D. (2013). Immune regulation of ovarian development: programming by neonatal immune challenge Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00100
Please click here for an open access copy of the journal article or, for further information, please contact Luba.Sominsky@newcastle.edu.au