VETERINARSKI ARHIV 69 (1), 1-5, 1999

ISSN 1331-8055 Online
ISSN 0372-5480 Printed in Croatia

Fungi associated with abortions
and infertility in does and ewes

Subhash Verma1, Ramesh C. Katoch1*, Satish K. Jand2,
and Parag Nigam3

1Department of Veterinary Microbiology & Immunology, College of
Veterinary & Animal Sciences, HPKV, Palampur, India

2College of Veterinary Sciences, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India

3Captain, C/O 5 APO, Mobile Veterinary Unit, Powari, Reckong Peo, H.P., India

* Contact address:
Prof. Dr. Ramesh C. Katoch,
Department of Veterinary Microbiology & Immunology, College of Veterinary & Animal Science, HPKV, Palampur-176 062, H.P. India,

VERMA, S., R. C. KATOCH, S. K. JAND, P. NIGAM: Fungi associated with abortions and infertility in does and ewes. Vet. arhiv 69, 1-5, 1999.


Investigations into the association of mycotic agents in the causation of reproductive disorders in 115 does and 163 ewes were conducted. Only one aborted ewe yielded Aspergillus fumigatus whereas from endometritis the overall fungal isolation was 7.5% in does and 7.5% in ewes. The predominance of Aspergillus spp. was to the extent of 57%. In does, fungal agent association was 11%, while in ewes it was 7% irrespective of type of disorder. In endometritic ewes the isolation of Aureobasidium pullulans, Altenaria spp. and Syncephalastrum spp. is noteworthy. Trichoderma spp. and Rhizoctonia spp. were also encountered in this study and which are rarely reported.

Key words: does, ewes, abortion, endometritis, cervicitis, vaginitis, mycotic agents, India


In Himachal Pradesh, sheep and goats move to arctic mountains in early summer and by end of rainy season they start returning to the valleys. Throughout the winter they move in valley areas and receive little in the way of a concentrate ration from the shepherds. During migration they acquire several infections due to journey stress, inclement weather, poor health status, etc. Inflammation of the genitalia, especially endometritis with mucopurulent discharge in fungal infections, may be responsible for causing infertility, and mycotoxins in the genital tract are spermicidal to spermatozoa, as documented by SAXENA and ISHAQUE (1977). Natural fungal poisons in mouldy grain strongly influence variations in fertility and mortality rates; mycotoxins which influence fertility might reduce conceptions and increase abortions, as well as possibly damaging the immune system (MATOSSIAN, 1996). Only a few references have been cited from the available literature regarding fungal borne infertility. This study was envisaged to act as a probe to discover fungal presence in the genitalia of does and ewes.

Materials and methods

Samples were collected from 115 does and 163 ewes, including samples from aborted foetuses (15 does and 28 ewes), endometritis (93 does and 133 ewes) and cervicitis and/or vaginitis (7 does and 2 ewes). Vaginal, cervical swabs and endometrial discharges were directly plated onto Sabouraund's dextrose agar (SDA) and Candida agar (CA); the spot inoculation method was followed to culture fungi. Plates were incubated at 25 C for a minimum period of 14 days. In the event of no fungal growth, the plates were further incubated for another 7 days and were then re-examined. The inoculated plates were examined daily for fungal growth, texture and diffusable pigment. A detailed study of the fungus was made in lactophenol cotton blue mounts (RAPER and FENNEL, 1965).


Mycotic agents in different types of reproductive disorders, viz., abortion, endometritis, cervicitis and/or vaginitis could be confirmed in 13% of cases. Among 15 does and 28 ewes the association of fungus could only be made in one ewe that yielded A. fumigatus, while 93 and 133 samples processed from cases of endometritis yielded fungi in 7 (7.5%) does and 9 (6.8%) ewes, respectively. Out of 7 and 2 samples cultured cases of cervicitis an/or vaginitis from does and ewes, 5 (71.4%) and 1 (50%) samples respectively were found positive for mycobiotic agents. The identification of different isolates of fungi is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Mycotic findings in the female genitalia of does and ewes

Type reproductive disorder

Animal tested (N)

Positive for mycotic agents

Isolated fungi













Aspergillus fumigatus (1)






Aspergillus niger (4)
A. terreus (1)
Penicillium spp. (2)

Aspergillus fumigatus (2)
A. flavus (1)
A. niger (2)
Syncephalastrum spp. (1)
Cladosporium spp. (1)
Aureobasidium pullulans (1)
Alternaria spp. (1)

Cervicitis or vaginitis





A. niger (2)
Aureobasidium pullulans (1)
Trichoderma spp. (1)
Rhizoctonia spp. (1)

Rhizoctonia spp. (1)









Many of the fungi involved in causing mycoses are termed "opportunistic", i.e., they establish as pathogens only when a subject is by change exposed to an exceptionally high concentration of their spores or "immunocompromised" due to prolonged and indiscriminate treatment with antibiotics, immunosuppressants, etc. Few, if any fungi pathogenic to man and animals are dependent on a host for survival. Fungi are able to grow saprobiologically since their nutritional requirements are less exacting. These fungi are ubiquitous in nature and are usually saprophytic, although occasionally they produce serious disease symptoms and abortion (AINSWORTH and AUSTWICK, 1973). The fungus Aspergillus fumigatus was isolated in a pure culture from a case of abortion in a ewe. This fungus has been established as a cause of abortion by several researchers, namely, SIDDIQUE et al. (1976), CUCI (1987), and VANDYOUSEFI and ZOGHI (1988). The scanning of available literature for mycotic abortion among ewes reflects its isolation for the first time in India. PATHAK and MITTAL (1966) and PAL et al. (1985) reported isolation of A. fumigatus from cases of metritis and abortion in cows, respectively. Its isolation from a cow abortion had been reported. This study also identified two isolates of A. fumigatus that emanated from endometric ewes. Hence, the presence of A. fumigatus in ewes is noteworthy, since it is a proven abortifacient and must not be overlooked. A. niger has been recovered from cases of endometritis in does and ewes. This opportunistic pathogen was also reported to be the cause of abortion in a buffalo (PAL, 1988). This study recorded that A. niger was the common fungus, revealing a percentage isolation to the extent of 34.8, followed by A. fumigatus (13%). PATNAIK et al. (1992) also reported A. niger to be the most common fungal agent associated with genital disorders in bovines. PAL et al. (1990) reported isolation of A. terreus from two cows with endometritis, whereas this investigation recorded its presence from a doe, thus indirectly supporting the observation of the above named workers. This study also reports isolation of Syncephalastrum from an endometric ewe, while PATGIRI and UPPAL (1983) recorded its presence from a reproductive disorder in a buffalo. Other fungi that had not been recorded earlier from endometritis were Aureobasidium pullulans and Alternaria. The high isolation rate of fungi from cervictitis and/or vaginitis to the figure of 71.42% in does and 50% in ewes is not surprising, since these organs of the genitalia are frequently exposed to the environment during oestrus and parturition. The isolation of Rhizoctonia spp. from cervicitis and/or vaginitis both in does and ewes is interesting. The isolation of Cladosporium from endometritis in a ewe has also been recorded. Earlier, PATGIRI and UPPAL (1983) recorded its presence in reproductive disorders in cows. This study came across one isolate of Alternaria from a ewe with endometritis. This has already been associated with endometritis in cows (PATGIRI and UPPAL, 1983). The Alternaria spores are easily recognisable and are particularly important as allergens. Alternaria spores regularly occur in the air, as do Cladosporium spores, which includes the ubiquitous saprobic modules. The Rhizoctonia spp. that was also isolated in pure culture from a ewe suffering from cervicitis/vaginitis was earlier found to yield a toxic metabolite slaframine, that induced excessive salivation in animals fed infested red clover (Trifolium pratense) hay (O'DELL et al., 1959; SMALLEY et al., 1962).

In the present study the isolation of A. pullulans and Trichoderma spp. from cervicitis/vaginitis in does appears to have not been previously documented. It is suggested that the further studies are warranted to investigate the true aetiological role of such opportunistic fungal pathogens in causing infertility.

Thanks are due to the Dean, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, HPKV, for providing necessary facilities, and to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for the Junior Research fellowship to the first author.


AINSWORTH, G. C., P. K. C. AUSTWICK (1973): Fungal disease of Animals. 2nd Edn. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau. Slough, England.

CUCI, A. (1987): Serological immune response to Aspergillus fumigatus mycosis. Buletini-i-Shkencave-Zooteknike-e Veterinare 5, 77-83.

MATOSSIAN, M. (1996): Effect of natural fungal toxins on fertility and mortality in connectient, 1660-1900. J. Nutritional Environ. Med. 6, 285-300.

O'DELL, B. L., W. O. REGAN, T. J. BEACH (1959): A study of the toxic principle in red clover. Miss. Univ. Agric. Stn. Res. Bull. 702.

PAL, M., A. HASEGAWA, N. MATSUSAKA (1990): Aspergillus terreus associated with endometritis in cattle. Revista Ibeoamericana De Micologia 7, 111-112.

PAL, M. (1988): Aspergillus niger associated with mycotic abortion in a buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Mycoses 31, 17-19.

PAL, M., B. S. MATHROTRA, S. M. DAHIYA (1985): Studies on mycotic abortion caused by Aspergillus fumigatus Fresenius. Ind. J. Anim. Rep. 6, 43-48.

PATGIRI, G. P., P. K. UPPAL (1983): Mycoflora of bovine female genital tract affected with various reproductive disorders. Indian J. Comp. Microbiol. Immunol. Infect. Dis. 4, 19-22.

PATHAK, R. C., K. R. MITTAL (1966): Isolation of A. fumigatus from the cervical mucus of cow having history of metritis. Current Sci. 35, 312.

PATNAIK, N., B. N. MOHANTY, S. K. H. RAY, D. N. MOHANTY, P. R. MISHRA (1992): Clinical report on lugol's iodine treatment of mycotic abortions in bovine. Indian Vet. J. 69, 1029-1031.

RAPER, K. B., D. I. FENNELL (1965): The genus Aspergillus. Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins.

SAXENA, S. C., S. M. ISHAQUE (1977): Therapeutic evaluation of antimycotic drugs in repeat breeding bovines due to mycotic infection. Current Science 46, 780-782.

SIDDIQUE, I. H., G. H. GRANT, J. G. BLACKWELI, B. E. MCKENZIE (1976): Organisms associated with abortions and reproductive problems in cattle. Modern Veterinary Practice 57, 809-811.

SMALLEY, E. B., R. E. NICHOLS, M. H. CRUMP, A. A. HEMING (1962): Physiological disturbance in animals resulting from the digestion of Rhizocitonia lequminicola. Phytopathology 52, 753.

VANDYOUSEFI, D., E. ZOGHI (1988): Mycotic abortions in Iran. Archives-de-Institut-Razi 38, 65-71.

Received: 12 December 1997
Accepted: 15 January 1999

VERMA, S., R. C. KATOCH, S. K. JAND, P. NIGAM: Gljivice povezane s pobacajem i jalovoscu u koza i ovaca. Vet. arhiv 69, 1-5, 1999.


Istrazivana je povezanost gljivicnih uzrocnika s poremecajima u razmnozavanju 115 koza i 163 ovce. U pobacenom materijalu jedne ovce utvrdena je gljivica Aspergillus fumigatus, dok su iz upalnog iscjetka od endometritisa gljivice pronadene u 7,5% koza i 7,0% ovaca. Aspergillus spp. je dominirala sa 57%. Gljivice su bile uzrokom poremecaja u razmnozavanju u 11% koza i 7% ovaca. U ovaca s endometritisom nadene su gljivice Auerobasidium pullulans, Altenaria spp. i Syncephalastrum spp. U ovim istrazivanjima utvrdeni su i inace rijetki nalazi Trichoderma spp. i Rhizoctonia spp.

Kljucne rijeci: koze, ovce, pobacaj, upala maternicne sluznice, upala maternicnog grljka, upala rodnice, gljivice, Indija