Is fertility test good or legal

Sperm check via smartphone app

BOSTON. The quality of semen could be assessed cheaply and easily with the help of a smartphone. US researchers present such a sperm check system for home use in the journal "Science Translational Medicine".

The test can be used just as easily and in a private environment as a pregnancy test and, for example, point out unwanted childless couples about possible problems with fearfulness, they write. So far, however, it only exists as a prototype, and an application for approval from the responsible US authorities is planned.

Low hurdle

Worldwide, up to twelve percent of men would have problems with fertility in the course of their life, the researchers write in their article. For many men, the hurdle is high to have their sperm quality tested. "Men have to give a semen sample in these rooms in hospitals, a situation in which they often feel stress, embarrassment, pessimism and disappointment," explains study leader Hadi Shafiee of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. "We wanted to offer a fertility test for men that is just as easy and inexpensive as a home pregnancy test."

Analysis in five seconds

The test system they developed consists of an optical accessory to which the smartphone is attached. The sperm sample that has not been processed further is loaded onto a type of disposable chip, which is then pushed into the accessory. In less than five seconds, the smartphone's camera analyzes the sperm concentration and mobility in the sample. An app guides the user through the application. According to the researchers, the material costs amounted to the equivalent of a good four euros.

Reliable assessment of semen quality

Shafiee's team tested the system on 350 sperm samples and compared the accuracy with conventional methods for sperm assessment. The result: The system allows a reliable assessment of the sperm quality based on the quality criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO). With an accuracy of about 98 percent, it detected samples with a concentration of less than 15 million sperm per millimeter and / or a proportion of motile sperm of less than 40 percent, the scientists report.

Test also suitable for inexperienced users

It identified abnormal sperm samples just as well as conventional methods, i.e. manual or computer-aided assessment of the sperm quality under the microscope. The scientists write that their system is in principle also suitable for replacing the conventional, labor-intensive and expensive processes. Computer-aided methods are lacking in many fertility centers or smaller hospitals, where manual procedures are used, which are time-consuming and also subjective. In their study, the scientists further demonstrated that even inexperienced users can cope with the test.

No substitute for laboratory diagnostics

The researchers see another area of ‚Äč‚Äčapplication in the control of vasectomy patients, i.e. men who have their vas deferens cut for sterilization. In order to check the success of this operation, the patients have to regularly check for several weeks whether their semen is largely free of sperm. It would be a great advantage if patients did not have to go to the doctor, but could simply do a test at home.

It is fascinating and in some cases certainly helpful to be able to carry out appropriate examinations away from large infrastructures, says Hans-Christian Schuppe, President of the German Society for Reproductive Medicine (DGRM). "Such home tests should only serve as orientation and not as a substitute for professional laboratory diagnostics."

On the one hand, humans are still superior to computer-aided systems when it comes to the overall assessment of semen quality, explained Schuppe. "A trained examiner always has other parameters in mind than just sperm count and motility. He also assesses the shape of the sperm and sees whether there are other cells in the sample, which could, for example, indicate further testicular disorders or other diseases could give. "

On the other hand, the question remains how the men deal with the result after a home test. "From my experience I have the feeling that many men and couples are completely overwhelmed with information from the Internet, for example. In this sensitive area, medical advice must continue to take place." (dpa)