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Fertility conference 2001 Monday, 2 July, 2001, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
DIY sperm test kit developed
Home tests
The home tests are designed for both men and women
Home fertility tests for men and women have been unveiled at a conference which starts on Monday.

It is hoped that the tests, which will be available over the counter at pharmacists, could prevent potentially costly delays in seeking treatment due to the "embarrassment factor".

The sperm test will be able to find out, with 95% accuracy, whether sperm are sufficiently "motile" - in other words, lively enough to reach the egg and fertilise it.


Many men feel embarrassed about visiting their GP or hospital clinic to provide a semen sample - hopefully this will be an alternative

Professor Chris Barratt
This is the most important quality which determines whether a man is fertile or sub-fertile.

It was developed by a team at the University of Birmingham and the city's women's hospital, led by Chris Barratt, a professor of reproductive medicine.

He said: "It is important that if there is a problem with fertility that it is identified quickly so that the couple can seek treatment.

"After a certain age, the chances of successful fertility treatment decline very quickly."

He added: "Many men feel embarrassed about visiting their GP or hospital clinic to provide a semen sample - hopefully this will be an alternative."

Women's test

Women also will get their own home urine test, which when used at a certain point in their cycle, will reveal the levels of a hormone important in fertility.

While there are a number of tests which can be carried out by doctors to check why a woman might not be conceiving, the presence or absence of this hormone is a significant sign.

However, the ingenuity of the sperm testing kit will be revealed at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Lausanne on Monday.

It is quite literally an obstacle course for sperm, inviting sperm to swim up a tube - a positive result will only be triggered if the man's sperm are sufficiently motile to make it all the way.

Testing at home

The tiny sperm have to travel at least 0.7cm to pass the test.

Then, they will react with antibodies on a strip and produce a red line.

Professor Barratt told BBC News Online: "Testing can take place in the comfort of one's own home - 30% of men who book sperm tests at our clinic never show up."

While the female test will be available later this year, the sperm test will not hit the shops until February next year.

Professor Barratt said he was hopeful that the NHS would take it up and allow the tests to be prescribed.

Dr Mohamed Taranissi, who runs a fertility clinic in central London, said the test had potential advantages.

But he said: "There are normally variations between samples, so doing one test - even if it is not particularly very good - does not automatically mean that they have serious problems."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"If it does prove both affordable and reliable it will lead to massive increase in couples seeking early specialist help"
Mohamad Taranissi, Fertility specilaist
"Doing one test does not automatically mean that there is a problem"
See also:

13 May 99 | Health
31 Jan 01 | Health
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