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  • Sperm samples phoning in

    Although male infertility is as common as female infertility, it often goes undiagnosed because of socioeconomic factors such as stigma, high cost of testing, and availability of laboratory facilities. To facilitate the necessary testing, Kanakasabapathy et al. have designed a smartphone-based assay that can be performed at home or in a remote clinic without access to laboratory equipment. The assay uses an inexpensive device that attaches directly to a phone and is operated through a smartphone application. The accuracy of this approach was very similar to that of computer-assisted laboratory analysis, even when it was performed by untrained users with no clinical background, demonstrating its potential for use at home and in low-resource settings.

    Abstract

    Male infertility affects up to 12% of the world’s male population and is linked to various environmental and medical conditions. Manual microscope-based testing and computer-assisted semen analysis (CASA) are the current standard methods to diagnose male infertility; however, these methods are labor-intensive, expensive, and laboratory-based. Cultural and socially dominated stigma against male infertility testing hinders a large number of men from getting tested for infertility, especially in resource-limited African countries. We describe the development and clinical testing of an automated smartphone-based semen analyzer designed for quantitative measurement of sperm concentration and motility for point-of-care male infertility screening. Using a total of 350 clinical semen specimens at a fertility clinic, we have shown that our assay can analyze an unwashed, unprocessed liquefied semen sample with <5-s mean processing time and provide the user a semen quality evaluation based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines with ~98% accuracy. The work suggests that the integration of microfluidics, optical sensing accessories, and advances in consumer electronics, particularly smartphone capabilities, can make remote semen quality testing accessible to people in both developed and developing countries who have access to smartphones.

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