Men can now evaluate their fertility potential in less than 1 hour using a kit, based on the Fertell test. The kit, tested on more than 3000 sperm samples prior to approval has 95% accuracy.It can even serve as a predictor of potential fertility problems. This would save the valuable time lost by couples during infertility assessment.
"At the moment many couples are advised to wait for around a year before seeking medical attention. But age can have a very significant negative impact on fertility; so having reliable information at an early stage can be a huge advantage", said Chris Barratt, one of the senior researchers.
The test works on the following principle. The sperm sample, produced by the man is introduced into the kit and the device is set. The sperms are then allowed to wade through a barrier, designed to mimic the female cervix. The number of sperms, which cross this barrier successfully, can be used to predict if there are enough sperms for a successful conception. A positive test is indicated by a red line that suggests that there are enough active sperms to fertilize the egg.
Infertility can be defined as the inability to conceive following 1 year of unprotected sexual intercourse. Contrary to the existing belief that infertility is a woman's issue; scientific research has concluded that a male factor is responsible for more than 50% of the cases. An increasing focus has now been shifted towards the male gamete and the identification of associated abnormalities.
"This is a neat device which actually examines how well sperm perform under 'test conditions' rather than just simply counting them and seeing how well they move. In that way, its a arguably more sophisticated than the standard semen analysis performed in many hospital laboratories", commented Dr Allan Pacey.
"The fact that men can take this test at home should help them to overcome their initial embarrassment of going to a hospital and having to produce a sample for analysis there. It can be a big deal for some men to have their fertility tested and men often fail to keep their hospital appointments for semen analysis which wastes time and resources", he concluded.
"This test can provide them with that information and allow them to identify some fertility problems at an early stage. However, it is important that couples are also made aware that other factors can affect their chances of conceiving such as blocked fallopian tubes. We would recommend to couples that if they have any concerns about their fertility they speak to the GP for further investigations", added Clare Brown of Infertility Network UK.