Advanced IVF treatment could pass on infertility

A new, advanced form of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment is being overused and may pass on infertility to the next generation, the doctor who pioneered the technique has warned.

The method Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves injecting a single sperm directly through the shell of the egg and depositing it inside.

Due to the extra intervention, abnormal sperm, that would have been otherwise filtered out, are able to fertilise the egg thus increasing the risk of genetic causes of infertility being passed on to the next generation, the Telegraph reported.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science at San Diego in US, Professor Andre Van Steirteghem from the University of Brussels, who pioneered the treatment 18 years ago said, he believed “ICSI was being used too often.”

“I have noticed from the beginning that several clinics use ICSI for everyone. I don’t think it’s necessary when you have methods like conventional IVF which is certainly less invasive, and can help couples with female factor or idiopathic (no known cause) infertility when the sperm count is normal,” he said.

Asked if he believed IVF might be storing up infertility problems for future generations, Prof Van Steirteghem said, “Well, yes. The answer to that is maybe yes. There are genetic causes of infertility that you can bypass with assisted reproductive technology, and that could mean that the next generation may be infertile as well,” Prof Van Steirteghem explained.

“We have to see what will come out in the future, and long term follow up is extremely important, but yes, ICSI has been overused,” he insisted.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said, “I agree that there is a real danger that ICSI is being overused in some parts of the world and I suspect this is out of fear of patients experiencing ‘failed fertilisation’ using conventional IVF. The problem of overusing ICSI is that there is a very small but statistically significant increased risk that some of the babies born from the technique appear to have health problems. As such the sensible thing is to only use ICSI when absolutely necessary.”

Since its introduction in 1992, increasing numbers of fertility clinics have adopted ICSI as procedure of choice.
Around half of the cycles conducted in British clinics use this method.

In Europe two thirds of fertility treatments are ICSI where as ten years ago it accounted for just one third.

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