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Decrease in sperm count calls for concern

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By Abraham Adekunle

Researchers say rate of reduced sperm motility in Nigeria and South Africa high.

There are many male fertility problems of concern, such as poor-quality sperm, low counts or even blockages in the tubes of the reproductive system of a man. However, researchers in Nigeria and South Africa have raised the alarm on the increasing trend of low-quality sperm from both countries. They revealed this in a study, which was titled, “Trends in semen parameters of infertile men in South Africa and Nigeria.” The report revealed that the researchers’ findings show quantifiable evidence of an alarming decrease in quality of men from the two countries.

Data used in the research spanned over the period of 2010 and 2019. Findings also prove that astheno and teratozoospermia are the leading causes of male fertility in these countries. Asthenozoospermia (or asthenospermia) is the medical term for reduced sperm motility, while teratospermia or teratozoospermia is a condition characterized by the presence of sperm with abnormal morphology that affects fertility in males. With no or reduced motility, they are unable to swim towards the egg. Fertilization does not occur when the reproductive elements cannot come together.

Lack of info on these trends in sub-Sahara Africa.

These researchers are led by the joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in Nigeria; the president of African Fertility Society (AFS) and others are from different universities and organizations in Nigeria, South Africa and the United States. They added that what they found shows empirically that semen parameters decrease with age. The findings are contained in this first report of temporal trends on the issue in sub-Saharan African countries. It necessitated a thorough investigation on the underlying factors promoting the worrisome decline.

According to them, conflicting reports have been published from different parts of the globe on this matter. However, there has been a dearth of information on the trend in these countries. They explained that the study was a retrospective study of semen analyses of 17,292 men attending fertility hospitals in Nigeria and South Africa in 2010, 2015 and 2019. Patients who had undergone vasectomy and those who had a pH less than five or greater than ten were excluded from the study. The reason is that a vasectomy (male sterilization) is a surgical procedure to cut or seal the tubes that carry a man’s semen to permanently prevent pregnancy. It is usually carried out under local anesthetic, where one is awake but does not feel any pain, and takes about 15 minutes.

The professionals explain the details of the study.

Variables that were assessed include: ejaculate volume, concentration, progressive motility, total progressively motile ejaculate count (TPMSC), total count, and normal sperm morphology. These semen parameters, including sperm concentration, total sperm count, sperm motility, TPMSC, morphology, and semen volume, are essential diagnostic tools for assessing the reproductive health and fertility status of men. Some studies have shown that the trend of semen parameters are not temporal. Those that have been found are said to be region-dependent.

However, there has been an observable decline in the trend since the 1930s in countries such as the US, Australia and Europe. Abnormalities in the parameters remain the foremost cause of male factor infertility. Between 1965 and 2015, there was an over 32-percent reduction in ejaculate concentration among European men. A significant decline in concentration and total count has been similarly reported among over 300,000 Chinese men within four decades. On the global scale, the declining trend in semen quality seems to be more consistent. The only shortcoming of this statement is that there is not enough information on this trend in sub-Saharan countries.

Solutions to the rising health issue in both countries.

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, one of the experts who conducted the research, pinpointed sexually transmitted diseases as one of the leading causes of reduction in sperm quality. He also mentioned the use of recreational drugs, alcohol, smoking and other substances. Presently, electronic gadgets, such as laptops, iPads and tablets, contain heavy metals that generate heat such that it causes significant decrease in sperm when put on the lap. He recommended a general body cleansing and detoxification at least two or three months before the conception process. “The solutions rest in avoiding many of the toxins,” he said.

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