UK study shows 29% drop in sperm concentration

5th January 2004

Results from the UK’s largest single-centre study into sperm counts reinforce concern over male fertility. The ‘SPIN’ (Semen Parameters in the Northeast) study measured sperm counts of men attending a regional fertility clinic in Aberdeen from 1989 to 2002. Tests showed a drop of almost 30% in the average sperm concentrations over the period of investigation.

The study showed that average sperm count of those men with a ‘normal’ sperm concentration (defined as over 20 million sperm/ml) in the group fell from nearly 87 million sperm/ml to just over 62 million sperm /ml over 14 years, a 29% drop in sperm numbers.

The study examined nearly 16,000 semen samples from more that 7,500 men who had attended the Aberdeen Fertility Centre, the only fertility clinic in the Grampian area. The research team is looking at several aspects of semen quality that might affect fertility; these preliminary results show that there has been a significant change in one aspect, sperm concentration.

Dr Siladitya Bhattacharya, who led the research, commented ‘We cannot say that there has been a fall in male fertility on the basis of these preliminary results, and much conflicting evidence exists in this field. There has been an increase in men seeking treatment for male infertility, but whether this is due to a significant increase in this condition or because men are more aware of new techniques which have been developed to help them, we cannot say. Nonetheless, the drop in sperm counts must cause some concern, and needs to be explained. We look forward to collecting data on other aspects of sperm quality to see if there is a similar decline.

Notes for Editors

This work will be presented at the Joint Meeting of the Association of Clinical Embryologists and British Fertility Society, 5-6 January 2004 in Liverpool, UK.

The study was carried out by S Sripada, D Giannaris, EM Mathers, J Mollison & S Bhattacharya from the Assisted Reproduction Unit, University of Aberdeen and Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, Forresterhill, Aberdeen.