Could checking a man’s sperm count be as simple as buying a test from the neighborhood drugstore? Soon, the answer may be yes.
Home ovulation kits, home pregnancy tests, and now at-home testing devices to check male sperm count? They are still under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but at least one new study has found that at-home sperm testing devices are almost as accurate at reading sperm counts as standard laboratory testing. Published February 5, 2010, in an online edition of the journal Human Reproduction, a research team from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville compared the accuracy of at-home devices with standard laboratory sperm count methods using 225 semen samples. Researchers found that both types of tests were accurate about 96 percent of the time (with lab testing only slightly edging out at-home tests). Testing devices also appeared easy for the average consumer to use—when lab technicians and consumers both used at-home testing devices to test a sample, results were the same approximately 95 percent of the time.
Hopefully coming soon to a drugstore near you (sperm count devices have already been approved for use in Europe), the test is intended for couples who have been trying to get pregnant for a few months, but aren’t ready to seek professional help, said Dr. John C. Herr, UVA Charlottesville researcher and test developer, in an interview with Reuters Health. Sperm counts of 20 million per milliliter of semen and above are considered normal. Device readouts indicated whether or not sperm count meets this cutoff and were also able to indicate very low sperm counts (below 5 million per milliliter). Researchers hope the new test allows couples to more easily determine if sperm count is a factor in their fertility struggles “and … do that in privacy with some cost savings. The product will retail for about $25. That’s a lot cheaper than going in and having a full semen analysis,” Dr. Herr added. Semen analysis typically costs from around $65 to $250, and may or may not be covered by insurance.