Tetracycline is common antibiotic used to treat a number of bacterial infections. It is contraindicated in pregnant women, due to its ability to mutate the DNA of a developing fetus.
Its mechanism of action is to inhibit protein synthesis in the mitochondrion, the organelle responsible for generating energy.
Unfortunately, this process is also important in sperm production and sperm motility. In fact, exposure of sperm to tetracycline affects sperm morphology, sperm count, sperm motility and sperm viability in both animal studies and human cell culture models.
A recent study found that exposure of sperm to tetracycline even affected the progeny of the exposed sperm.
Using a pseudoscorpion model, researchers found that when the parents were exposed to tetracycline, their male offspring showed infertility similar to the exposed parents. The infertility was recorded as decreased sperm viability.
The effects of the antibiotic seemed to stop at the offspring, as subsequent generations of pseudoscorpions were not infertile.
These data show that some antibiotics may negatively affect fertility. Furthermore, it shows that the effects of the antibiotics may be transgenerational by similarly affecting the offspring of exposed parents.