BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Berlin:
Using a mobile phone and taking the anti-impotence drug Viagra may both affect a man's fertility, according to a report in the Sunday Times. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Szeged in Hungary found a link between 'heavy use' of mobile phones and a 30 per cent drop in sperm counts. But the research, due to be presented at the annual European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting in Berlin, did not take into account other factors. Meanwhile, another study due to be reported at the conference suggests that Viagra use can interfere with the fertilisation process in mice.
The Hungarian researchers studied 221 men for 13 months, and compared the sperm of men who used their phones heavily with those that did not. They found that those who carried their phone with them nearly all of the time had up to a 30 per cent reduction in their sperm count. The scientists stress that further work is needed to confirm the link, but conclude that 'the prolonged use of cell phones may have a negative effect on spermatogenesis and male fertility, that deteriorates both concentration and motility'. However, the study has been criticised because it did not take into account other factors, such as the stress levels or age of the participants. A spokesperson for the Mobile Operators Association told the Sunday Times that 'successive studies have found no adverse health effects'.
Researchers at Queens University Belfast are due to present a study carried out on mice, which suggests that Viagra use could affect the ability of sperm to fertilise an egg. The research, which builds on findings presented at the British Fertility Society meeting in March 2004, shows that female mice mated with males given Viagra produced fewer embryos than those mated with untreated mice. The scientists also found that Viagra use was linked to a reduced rate of embryo growth.
The team says the study shows that Viagra 'significantly reduces' fertilisation and embryo growth rates, and has implications for men using the drug who are contemplating having children. However, when the scientists first announced their findings in March, John Dean, secretary general of the European Society for Sexual Medicine cautioned that lab findings may not reflect what is happening in the human body. He told BBC News Online that, in the five years that Viagra has been around, 'no overall detrimental effect on fertility has been observed'.