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Mail-in sperm testing as reliable as clinic tests

15 February 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1083

Semen samples can now be accurately analysed up to 52 hours after production using a new mail-in sperm testing kit.

Scientists at the University of Southern California have reported that the accuracy of mail-in semen analysis on that is produced at home is comparable to a traditional semen analysis, which is typically performed within one hour of sperm production. 

'This is a game changer for men because it means they no longer have to come into a lab or clinic to provide a sample, an experience some find unnerving and challenging', said lead investigator Dr Mary Samplaski. 'This allows men to secure highly accurate male fertility results while providing the specimen from the comfort of their own home'.

A semen analysis is one of first fertility investigations offered to couples who are struggling to conceive and can identify sperm quality issues, such as a low sperm count or poor sperm motility, which may reduce the likelihood of achieving a pregnancy naturally. 

The quality of a semen sample begins to diminish one hour after production. As a result, fertility clinics typically ask their patients to produce a semen sample on-site or deliver the sample to the laboratory within one hour of production. 

The recent study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, describes a unique preservation solution which can be added to semen samples to control the rate of sperm degradation. This creates a predictable rate of decline in specimen quality, which allowed the researchers to develop an algorithm to calculate the initial quality of the semen sample.

During the validation arm of the study, a traditional, one-hour semen analysis was performed on 104 semen samples. The samples were then mixed with the preservation solution and four further semen analyses were performed for each sample over a 52-hour period. These samples were exposed to a range of temperatures over the analysis period to mimic the temperature fluctuations that can occur during transportation.

The research team found that the results of the four delayed semen analyses could each be used to accurately calculate the initial quality of the semen sample. They concluded that the mail-in sperm testing kit could be used as a viable alternative to the traditional, one-hour semen analysis.

'Essentially, there was no difference in the results' said Dr Samplaski. 'While this study was limited in scope, the findings make the mail-in system a reliable option to consider for routine clinical use in evaluating sperm'.

Dr Samplaski also believes that the mail-in sperm testing kit could improve patient access to diagnostic sperm testing. This is particularly relevant for patients who want to investigate their fertility during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

'The more options a couple has in their fertility care, the better' she said. 'Making evaluative tests easier keeps couples moving forward and ultimately improves their chances of conception'.

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