Simplified sperm testing devices: a possible tool to overcome lack of accessibility and inconsistency in male factor infertility diagnosis. An opportunity for low- and middle- income countries
developing countries, low- and middle-income countries, male infertility, smart-phone assisted sperm assessment, semen analysis, variability
Published online: Mar 31 2021
Background: Manual semen assessment (MSA) is a key component in a male’s fertility assessment. Clinicians rely on it to make diagnostic and treatment decisions. When performed manually, this routine laboratory test is prone to variability due to human intervention which can lead to misdiagnosis and consequently over- or under-treatment. For standardisation, continuous training, quality control (QC) programs and pricy Computer-Assisted Sperm Analysis (CASA) systems have been proposed, yet, without resolving intra- and inter-laboratory variability. In response, promising simplified sperm testing devices, able to provide cost-effective point-of-care male infertility diagnosis are prospected as a plausible solution to resolve variability and increase access to sperm testing.
Materials and methods: A throughout literature research for semen testing, sperm analysis, smart-phone assisted semen analysis, ‘at-home’ semen testing, male infertility, infertility in developing countries, infertility in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) and quantitative sperm analysis was performed. A total of 14 articles, specific to ‘at-home’ simplified sperm assessment, were included to treat the core subject.
Results: Continuous training and consistent QC, are sine qua none conditions to achieve accurate and comparable MSA. Compliance does not rule-out variability, nevertheless. Emerging simplified sperm assessment devices are an actual alternative to resolve the lack of standardisation and accessibility to sperm analysis. YO ® , SEEM ® , and ExSeed ® are commercially available, user-friendly smartphone-based devices which can accurately measure volume, sperm concentration (millions/ml) and total motile sperm count. More broadly, by cost-effectiveness, availability, accuracy and convenient application, these devices could effectively select patients for first-line artificial reproduction treatments such as intrauterine insemination.
Conclusions: Accuracy and cost-effectiveness make smart-phone based sperm testing devices a practical and realistic solution to overcome variability in MSA. Importantly, these tools represent an actual opportunity to standardise and improve male subfertility diagnosis and treatment, especially in LMIC. However, before clinical application is possible, guidelines, further testing with special attention on accuracy in washed sperm, availability, cost-benefit and reliability are required.