Immunocontraception has been proposed as an effective and humane means of controlling overabundant kangaroo populations in Australia. We have examined the feasibility of using a sperm-based vaccine for this purpose using a model macropod species, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). This study has demonstrated immunocontraception in a marsupial species following immunisation of males with homologous spermatozoa. Serum anti-sperm IgG titres were associated with a significant reduction in fertilisation rates following mating with superovulated female wallabies. Antigen-specific IgG penetrated the reproductive tract at the rete testis and bound spermatozoa in vivo. IgG was detected bound to the acrosome and midpiece regions of both epididymal and ejaculated spermatozoa. The absence of adverse testicular pathology and sperm movement effects suggests that contraception may have been achieved by antibody-mediated blocking of sperm surface antigens essential for fertilisation. This study demonstrates that a contraceptive vaccine targeting sperm antigens has potential for fertility control in male macropods.
Journal of Reproductive Immunology Vol. 69, Issue 2, p. 127-147