The effects of exposure to low doses of paraquat, a herbicide, via the dermal route were studied on the spermatozoa of Sprague-Dawley rats. Paraquat (1, 1'-dimethyl-4, 4'-bipyridinium dichloride) was administered once a day for five days, at intervals of 24 h at 0, 6, 15 and 30 mg/kg, and the rats were sacrificed on days 7, 14, 28, and 42 after the last exposure. The sperm suspensions were obtained by mincing the caudae epididymes and ductus deferens for the purpose of performing a sperm morphology test, sperm count and analysis of sperm mortality and sperm motility, as per the standard procedures. The sperm count was decreased (p < 0.05) only on days 7 and 14 but sperm abnormalities increased on all days (p < 0.05). Sperm mortality increased at higher dose-levels (p < 0.05) except on day 42, and motility was affected by 30 mg/kg only on day 42. In conclusion, paraquat is a genotoxic and cytotoxic agent to germ cells in the male rat.
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