Inflammation: friend or foe of bovine reproduction?
Inflammation is not only the first line of defense of the organism but is also required in many reproductive processes such as ovulation, corpus luteum development, luteolysis, uterine clearance after insemination and post partum. Nevertheless, if excessive or persistent, inflammation can switch from a positive mechanism to a deleterious process, impairing oocyte quality and embryo development. Not only uterine but also non genital inflammatory sites can depreciate reproductive performances, with a carry over effect of 2 to 4 months. Since the metabolic challenges of the peripartum transition period make difficult for the cow to control inflammation, dairy cows are frequently in a pro-inflammatory stage, suggesting that inflammation, rather than infection, is a limiting factor of fertility in modern dairy cows. Within the first week after calving, cows have to mount an intense inflammatory response to the bacterial invasion of the uterine cavity with the challenge of being able to switch it off in no more than 5-6 weeks. The absence of neutrophils on endometrial smear is associated with the highest success rate at insemination. Since a fine tuning – rather than an absence - of inflammation is required along the reproductive cycle, anti-inflammatory drugs do not allow any improvement of pregnancy rate, except in the specific case of embryo transfer. Appropriate management of the transition period (especially nutritional) and in a long term perspective, genetic selection contribute to improve the aptitude of cows to controls the intensity of inflammatory process.
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