Researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed the world’s first over the counter commercially available home fertility test for men. The device, which was developed in collaboration with London based medical devices company Genosis, is available to buy from January at Boots.
The Fertell test is designed to give couples trying to conceive early warning of any potential fertility problems. The new test measures the number of motile sperm and provides a result in around an hour.
The test works by forcing sperm to swim through a barrier, which mimics the female cervix. The device then measures the number of sperm, which swim beyond this point. By including a barrier, the device is able to accurately measure the concentration of active sperm, which is a key indicator of male fertility. If a high enough level of sperm is present in the sample a red line indicates a positive test.
During the study the team looked at samples from 150 subjects. The test provided an accurate result in 95% of cases, whether the original sample showed a negative or positive test result.
During the development of the test the research team analysed more than 3000 individual sperm samples.
Professor Chris Barratt from the University of Birmingham Medical School who led the research said: “The Fertell test should provide couples who are trying to conceive with an early warning. 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.”
Professor Barratt continues: “ The test has the advantage of being extremely straightforward to use. The man produces a sample, sets the device, and within an hour will be able to assess whether he has enough sperm to fertilise the female egg. Having a simple home test also takes the pressure off men, who may feel embarrassed at the prospect of providing a sample in a clinic.”
The study Development of a novel home sperm test: L. Björndahl, J. Kirkman-Brown, G. Hart, S. Rattle and C.L.R. Barratt, is published online in Human Reproduction
Professor Chris Barratt is available for interview: To arrange interviews or for a copy of the paper contact: Ben Hill, Press Office, University of Birmingham, Tel 0121 414 5134, Mob 07789 921163
Professional photographs of Professor Barratt and the Fertell Test are available on request.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
The kit reproduces the temperature conditions of a woman's body. Sperm are deposited into a container. A button is pressed to release a column of artificial cervical mucus, which is heated automatically to 37c. Only the motile sperm are able to swim through the mucus column to a point where they are automatically collected, tagged with gold-labelled antibodies and detected on a nitro-cellulose strip. If there are adequate numbers of sperm present and if they are sufficiently motile, the test will produce an easy-to-read red line. This appears when the semen sample has greater than 10 million motile sperm per ml, which is equivalent to the WHO guidelines for normality.
For more information about the test visit the website on www.fertell.co.uk
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence Fertility Guidance
Fertility assessment and referral process
§ People who are concerned about delays in conception should be offered an initial assessment. A specific enquiry about lifestyle and sexual history should be taken to identify people who are less likely to conceive.
§ People who have not conceived after 1 year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse should be offered further clinical investigation including semen analysis and/or assessment of ovulation.
§ Where there is a history of predisposing factors (such as absence of and irregular periods, pelvic inflammatory disease or undescended testes), or where a woman is aged 35 years or over, earlier investigation should be offered.
§ Where there is a known reason for infertility (such as prior treatment for cancer), early specialist referral should be offered.