The British Fertility Society (BFS) has announced a substantial reworking of guidelines for the donation of gametes and embryos for assisted reproduction so as to increase safety for recipients of donated reproductive material. The guidelines, which replace the BFS's 2000 guidelines for egg and embryo donations and also the 1999 British Andrology Society guidelines for sperm donation, rationalise existing safety controls and add new requirements to test for conditions such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and the human T cell lymphotropic viruses 1 and 2.
The report, published in the journal 'Human Fertility', is the product of a working group made up of members from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Association of Biomedical Andrologists, the Association of Clinical Embryologists, the British Andrology Society and the BFS. The stated aims of the project were to provide guidelines to protect both those receiving donor materials and those who will be conceived from those materials.
The requirements of the revised guidelines include screening donated materials for all diseases transmitted via bodily fluids (covering HIV - human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B and C and human T cell lymphotrophic viruses that have been implicated as a cancer risk factor). Secondly, the guidelines require an assessment of the risk that the donor is carrying genetically transmitted diseases such as haemophilia, Huntingdon's disease and congenital heart malformation by means of taking a family medical history. Thirdly, they exclude those with an elevated risk of prion-related diseases (such as variant CJD - Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease) by prohibiting donations from those who have received invasive neurosurgery, human pituitary derived growth hormone or a tissue transplant from the human eye or nervous system. The report also sets new age limits: donors must be a minimum of eighteen years old, with a recommended ceiling of forty years old for men and thirty-five years for women. It also requires that all sperm donors should have their semen quality tested to ensure healthy levels of activity.
It is hoped that the guidelines will serve to increase the safety of gamete and embryo donation in the UK. Dr Allan Pacey, chair of the working party stated that 'the donation of sperm, eggs and embryos is a key aspect of assisted reproduction, and many couples rely on donors to create a family'. He added: 'These guidelines aim to reinforce the safety of donation both for the recipient and for donor-conceived people. The UK professional bodies have worked together to revise these guidelines and promote good clinical practice, providing patients with safe and effective treatment and helping them have healthy children'.