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Anti-depressants linked to plummeting sperm count

30 October 2006
Appeared in BioNews 382

Researchers at Cornell Medical Center in New York have discovered that commonly prescribed anti-depressants may have the unwanted side effect of drastically lowering male sperm count. Tests were conducted on two men over a two year period, during which time their sperm count changed from normal before taking the anti-depressants, to almost zero after taking the medicines. The sperm count of both men recovered to normal levels once use of the drugs was discontinued.

The men studied were taking anti-depressant medications Citalopram (Cipramil) and sertraline (sold as Lustral in the UK). These drugs are of the same class as market leaders Seroxat and Prozac. Impotence and delayed ejaculation are known to be side effects of these drugs, but this study indicates that there may also be an effect on the nerves in the vas deferens such that sperm are not being transported or released in the ejaculate. Cornell Medical Center found a similar, although less severe effect, on twelve further men and have begun a clinical trial of 30 men taking sertraline.

Lead researcher Dr Peter Schlegel, who presented the research at annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans, said, 'These were men with normal sperm counts that went to nearly zero when they were on these antidepressants but returned to normal when they were off them. It's a dramatic effect and it's never been described before. We believe that while it's had a profound effect on these two men, it could be having a significant but more subtle effect on many more men'. Doctors urged men using the drugs not to stop taking them as sudden changes in use may worsen psychiatric conditions, but to consult their GPs if they had concerns.

In research also related to male fertility Australian scientists have reported a link between male infertility and increased risk of testicular cancer. 740 men who attended a Perth infertility clinic over 30 months were given ultrasound scans to check for testicular cancer, of these men five were found to have the condition, which can be hard to detect. This translates to an incidence within this population of a 0.7 per cent lifetime risk of contracting the illness, higher than the usual lifetime risk of 1 in 243. Lead researcher Dr Anne Jequier, addressing the Fertility Society of Australia's Annual Scientific Meeting, called for all infertile men to be given a testicular ultrasound every two to three years in a similar way that mammograms may be routinely offered to older women.

Anti-depressants 'cause reduction in sperm count'
The Independent |  24 October 2006
Antidepressants may make men infertile
The Guardian |  24 October 2006
Infertility linked to testicular cancer
The Australian |  25 October 2006
Prozac is linked to low sperm count
The Times |  24 October 2006
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