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DIY sperm count test goes on sale in UK

04 November 2013

By Dr Naqash Raja

Appeared in BioNews 729

A fertility test which allows men to check their sperm count in the comfort of their home - or wherever they feel is most suitable - has gone on sale in the UK.

SpermCheck, which resembles a pregnancy test, indicates 'normal' or 'low' sperm count in ten minutes.

Ray Lopez, chief executive of SpermCheck, told The Mail on Sunday the test would 'truly help couples suffering from infertility'.

'A lot of the time, the woman is the one who is burdened with finding out what is wrong, but the reality of the situation is that in 40 to 60 percent of cases, male factor infertility is to blame'.

According to NHS Choices, around one in six couples in the UK have difficulty conceiving a child and low sperm count or quality is the cause in 20 percent of cases. It is a 'contributory factor' for a further 25 percent of couples.

SpermCheck claims 98 percent accuracy. The test works by detecting a protein called SP-10 that is found in the head of mature sperm. However as this protein is also found in dead sperm cells, the test is unable to determine the health of the sperm.

Also, a sperm count of lower than 20 million sperm per millilitre, which SpermCheck would classify as 'low', does not necessarily mean that a couple could not conceive naturally. The company advises men who get a low result on the test to consult their doctor.

Experts and clinicians interviewed in the media were divided on whether they welcomed the test. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Tim Child, a consultant gynaecologist, said, 'Any new test which helps us get talking about the devastating disease of infertility is progress'.

'I'm worried by it', countered Victoria Lambert, chair of the Medical Journalists' Association, who had experienced fertility issues of her own. 'The personal element that one gets from a health professional is not there'.

Speaking to the Mail and the Telegraph, Alison Campbell, head of embryology at Care Fertility, emphasised that male fertility was about more than just sperm count. 'There’s no alternative to seeing a professional', she said.

Much of the coverage focused on possible social implications. Lopez said that women might use the test to check if their partners really were, in the Mail on Sunday's words, 'mating material'.

'There's some possibility of that, where a woman says: "This is my perfect mate, but I better find out if he is fertile or not"', he told the paper.

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