Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Boys Are Not OK

Credit: alex-mit/iStock

Credit: alex-mit/iStock

By Moira O’Bryan & Rob McLachlan

Not only is male infertility a determining factor in a couple’s ability to start a family, it is also associated with a higher risk of early death.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

One in six Australian couples is infertile, and male infertility is the sole or a contributory cause in half of these. Treatment sought by infertile couples leads to 70,000 assisted reproductive technology cycles each year at a cost of $600 million, with each couple paying approximately $4000 per cycle out of pocket.

A less readily quantified cost of infertility is the psychosocial and relationship stress resulting from the inability to father a biological child. Male infertility is a deeply personal affliction for which disclosure to family and friends, or support groups, is often declined or unavailable.

Failure to produce adequate numbers of motile and functional sperm is the most common presentation of male infertility, yet for most men no specific cause can be identified. As such, no effective treatment can be provided.

Our current inability to make a precise diagnosis compounds the sense of frustration for patient and clinician alike. Semen and hormone testing provide insights into the severity of the underlying disorder, but usually not the cause of disease.

In an effort to rectify this situation, studies are underway to identify the genetic causes behind about 50% of infertility cases. A potentially far more challenging task is identifying environmental causes of infertility and the interplay between genetics and environmental...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.