Introduction

Various infective pathological conditions can result in the defensive reaction of tissues to the attack of microorganisms. An infection leads to the activation of specific immune cells, in particular a form of white blood cells (WBC's) known as leukocytes. The result which arises from such defensive action is the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen and are produced by the invading leukocytes. The defensive oxidative pathway that the ROS take in killing microbes can have a biopositive effect when ROS concentrations are maintained at a low level or are counterbalanced by the protective antioxidant scavenging system which maintains homeostasis [1] In certain conditions whereby homeostasis is disrupted, an imbalance arises between oxidants and antioxidants, in favor of the former, resulting in a condition known as oxidative stress (OS) [1, 2].

The harmful effect of this imbalance is OS-induced damage, which is a threat to all cellular elements, including: amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids [3]. OS is considered as the circumstance which underlies the etiology of various human conditions [4] . In context of this, a wide variety of diseases exist in which the pathophysiological role of ROS and OS has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the condition. Examples of these include: cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease [3] .

In the male reproductive system, the harmful effect that ROS can have on sperm and their parameters has been known for a relatively long period of time. In the mid-1980s, Professor John Aitken and his group pioneered studies into the activities of ROS in male reproductive biology [3], which has continued comprehensively over the following years, in particular the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in America which has extensively researched the effects of OS in male infertility.

Research into the negative influence that leukocytospermia can have on semen parameters introduced investigations into the role of leukocyte-produced ROS. ROS are spontaneously generated and required at a basal level for certain spermatozoal physiological functions [5]. It has been proven that samples considered being per-oxidase-positive have higher concentrations of ROS [6] and these polymorphonu-cleated leukocytes (PMNL) release oxygen radicals, such as hydrogen peroxide and superoxide which are known toxic factors towards spermatozoa. Irrelevant of the concentration of leukocytes in semen, the presence of these WBC's have been shown to be associated with OS which can negatively effect semen parameters such as sperm concentration and morphology [7].

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