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Sperm and egg cell on microscope.  Scientific background. 3d illustration

Sperm Oxidative Stress Testing (SOS)

Male fertility health issues will be the cause of up to 50% of challenges in conceiving. Though a general semen analysis still remains the ‘gold standard’ for assessing the quality of sperm (checking factors like volume, number, motility, morphology and more), 25 – 40% of male fertility could remain ‘unexplained’ after a semen analysis.

One factor which could be causing this ‘unexplained’ infertility is Oxidative Stress. High levels of oxidative stress have been linked to poor sperm function and cell DNA damage, potentially increasing the risk of failed IVF outcomes

What is oxidative stress?

This occurs when there are high levels of what are known as Reactive Oxygen Species (“ROS”) or “Free Radicals” circulating in the body. These are chemicals that are produced naturally in the body as a bi-product of a cell’s metabolism and under normal circumstances are mopped up by the body’s antioxidants. However, if they are allowed to reach high levels – sometimes due to poor diet, infection or inhalation of high levels of toxins (eg. cigarette smoke) – they can cause damage to the DNA structure. It is generally accepted that a healthy lifestyle would enhance the antioxidant level in the system which would in turn promote healthy sperm development.

Oxidative stress and male fertility

High levels of oxidative stress have been linked to poor sperm function, abnormal semen analysis results, and failed IVF outcomes. There is evidence that high levels of oxidative stress can cause changes in the sperm cell membranes, affecting their morphology and motility, as well as causing damage to their DNA. This DNA damage could result in DNA errors within an embryo, in turn causing lower pregnancy rates and a higher risk of miscarriage.

We can assess the balance of free radicals and antioxidants in the sperm with an ‘SOS’ test. This test can be done at the same time as a semen analysis or at any point in your treatment. Once we have the results, we’ll discuss your best next steps with you, which could be further tests or possible treatments.

Testing for oxidative stress

Though a classic semen analysis may show the effects of oxidative stress (such as reduced quality or motility of sperm), it would not be able to show the reason behind it. Our new SOS (Sperm Oxidative Stress) test quickly determines if a patient high levels of oxidative stress by assessing the balance of free radicals and antioxidants in a semen sample. This test can be done at the same time as a normal semen analysis, or at any other time during fertility treatment at Care. A great advantage of this test is that there is no need for sperm to be frozen and transported to our specialist laboratory, as with Sperm DNA damage screening. Since Oxidative Stress can cause sperm DNA damage, our SOS test is a quick indicator of whether further, more complex testing is necessary.

Who should be tested for oxidative stress?

  • Partners of women with a history of two or more pregnancy losses
  • Males over the age of 40
  • Males with suboptimal semen analysis results (particularly low morphology or motility)
  • Males with poor lifestyle, body mass index over 30, who smoke, have high alcohol intake or poor diet.

SOS testing at Care

Sperm cells

Our exciting SOS test is currently available at all Care clinics. If you are interested in the SOS test, please contact the team at your local clinic. Or call our new patient enquiry team on 0800 564 2270.

With 1 in 20 men affected by sperm inefficiency, a correct diagnosis is crucial in ensuring successful fertility treatment. Our SOS test gives even more information about sperm quality, and with treatment often simple, it’s well worth speaking with your Care team about whether our SOS test can help you.