IVF babies can inherit father’s infertility, study finds



Researchers have found that boys born using a common In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) fertility technique could be inheriting their father’s infertility.

The results, published yesterday in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that men conceived via Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) had half the sperm count and half the number of well-moving sperm, compared with men conceived naturally.

ICSI involves injecting the sperm directly into the egg. A normal cycle of IVF follows, with embryos being transferred to the womb.

ICSI is used in more than half of all fertility treatments in Nigeria with over 10,000 babies born as a result.

Tests on the first group of men born using ICSI have now shown that they too suffer from low sperm counts and poor-moving sperm.

Researchers said a ‘degree of sub-fertility’ had been passed on to them from fathers unable to conceive naturally.
The study was conducted by the Belgian pioneers of ICSI, on 54 men who had been born in the first years of the technique between 1992 and 1996.

The participants, all aged between 18 and 22, agreed to have their sperm tested.

The samples were compared with those of 57 men of a similar age, who had been conceived naturally.

The study, led by the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, also showed that men born from ICSI were almost three times more likely to have sperm concentrations below 15 million per millilitre of semen, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of healthy semen.

Study leader Prof. Andre Van Steirteghem said his team had always known that their sons might inherit the problems that had caused the father’s infertility, usually genetic factors.

He said: “These findings are not unexpected. Before ICSI was carried out, prospective parents were informed that it may well be that their sons may have impaired sperm and semen like their fathers.

“For all the parents this information was not a reason to abstain from ICSI because, as they said, “If this happens, ICSI can then also be a solution for our sons.”

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