A team of researchers at Harvard University in the US have developed an mHealth solution that can accurately diagnose a man’s fertility by testing his sperm count.

Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, Hadi Shafiee, and his team developed the portable and easy to use device as a solution for male fertility testing in resource constrained settings where laboratory equipment and specially trained technicians aren’t available. As the solution requires no training, it’s also ideal to use as a male at-home fertility test.

The solution, which costs around $5 to make in the lab, consists of a rapid infertility diagnostic tool that attaches to a smartphone as well as an accompanying app that counts the number of sperm and measures motility, which are markers for infertility.

To use the solution, all that’s required is a small semen sample which is put on a disposable microchip. The sample is then put into the phone attachment which turns the phone’s camera into a microscope. Through the app the user can see a video of the sample and select record to initiate analyses of the video to identify sperm cells and track their movements.

The mobile solution recently underwent testing to see how it compares to lab equipment. From analysing over 350 semen samples of both infertile and fertile men it was found to be 98% accurate in identifying abnormal sperm samples. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Shafiee believes that the solution could also help to test the sperm count of men who recently underwent a vasectomy to determine if the procedure was a success. “Urologists will love something like this; they can hand it to the patients and ask them to perform the analysis by themselves,” said Shafiee.

According to Shafiee the next focus will be on getting FDA approval, starting a company and beginning mass production of the devices. “I am confident that this can go to customers at below $50 when it is ready,” concluded Shafiee.

While the smartphone attachment was initially designed for Android devices there are plans to develop an iPhone version as well.

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