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Declining sperm count raises human extinction concerns

By Chukwuma Muanya
17 November 2022   |   4:52 am
Again, scientists have warned that the human race might go into extinction and face a reproductive crisis if action is not taken to tackle the drop in sperm count, after ascertaining the alarming rate of decline.

Sperm. Credit: Chemistry World

United Kingdom halves health aid to Nigeria, others

Again, scientists have warned that the human race might go into extinction and face a reproductive crisis if action is not taken to tackle the drop in sperm count, after ascertaining the alarming rate of decline.

The latest study published, yesterday, in the journal, Human Reproduction Update, based on 153 estimates from men, who were probably unaware of their fertility, suggested that the average sperm concentration fell from an estimated 101.2m per ml to 49.0m per ml between 1973 and 2018 – a drop of 51.6 per cent. Total sperm counts dipped by 62.3 per cent during the same period.

Research by the same team, reported in 2017, found that sperm concentration had more than halved in the last 40 years. However, at the time, a lack of data for other parts of the world meant the findings were focused on a region encompassing Europe, North America and Australia. The latest study included more recent data from 53 countries.

Declines in sperm concentration were seen not only in the region previously studied but also in Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

Moreover, the rate of decline appeared to be increasing: looking at data collected in all continents since 1972, the researchers found sperm concentrations declined by 1.16 per cent yearly. However, when they looked only at data collected since the year 2000, the decline was 2.64 per cent per year.

First author of the research from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Hagai Levine, said: “I think this is another signal that something is wrong with the globe and that we need to do something about it. So yes, I think it’s a crisis, that we had better tackle now, before it may reach a tipping point, which may not be reversible.”

Previous studies had also suggested that fertility is compromised if sperm concentration falls below 40m per ml. While the latest estimate is above this threshold, Levine noted that this is a mean figure, suggesting the percentage of men below this threshold would have increased.

“Such a decline clearly represents a decline in the capacity of the population to reproduce,” he said.

While the study accounted for factors, including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation and excluded men known to suffer from infertility, it has limitations, consisting of the fact that it did not look at other markers of sperm quality.

Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, Allan Pacey, who was not involved in the work, praised the analysis but said he remained on the fence over whether there is a decline.

However, Levine dismissed such concerns, adding that, in any case, the decline has been more pronounced in more recent years.

A team of Nigerian medical experts had raised the alarm that more men could become infertile due to a huge drop in sperm quality caused by rising pollution, junk food, obesity, smoking, exposure to plastics and lack of exercise.

The experts said this has led to the number of men seeking treatment soaring by 700 per cent in just 15 years. They, nevertheless, proffered solutions on how to improve fertility naturally and achieve over 95 per cent success rate in Assisted Fertility Techniques (ART) such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

A Professor of Anatomy and Consultant in ART/IVF/Test Tube Baby in Nigeria, Oladapo Ashiru, identified technology, especially the use of laptops by men, toxins in food and from the environment, bleaching creams, artificial sweeteners, chlamydia infection, obesity among others as decreasing sperm count in men and fueling the growth of fibroids in women.

To address the situation, Ashiru, who is also Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) Clinics, Lagos, recommended medically monitored detoxification, weight loss, treatment of infections and other lifestyle modifications.
MEANWHILE, stakeholders are worried that the United Kingdom (UK) has halved its pledge to fight diseases in Nigeria and other developing countries ahead of World AIDS Day (WAD) held on December 1.

Britain announced on Monday that it would contribute $1.19 billion over three years to combat Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), tuberculosis and malaria across the world, about half the amount aid organisations had hoped for and more than a month after other Groups of 7 (G7) nations had pledged their support.

According to a report published in New York Times, yesterday, Britain has slashed foreign aid since 2020, thus jeopardising efforts to tackle infectious diseases, famine, climate change and girl education.

The country’s new pledge is to the Global Fund, which finances the majority of campaigns against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. The three diseases, together, kill nearly three million people yearly, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed decades of progress.

Britain’s Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, in a statement, stated: “The UK and others founded the Global Fund because we refused to accept the loss of millions of lives every year to preventable and treatable diseases.”

Britain was the second largest donor to the Fund. But since 2020, the country has cut its contribution to human rights work by 80 per cent, funds for some global health programmes by more than 80 per cent and humanitarian aid to Yemen, Syria and other nations by 60 per cent.

Executive Director, of Global Fund, Peter Sands, said the organisation has saved 50 million lives since its launch in 2001.

He noted that with $18 billion from donor countries, it could save another 20 million lives over the next three years.

G7 member nations gathered in New York in September and pledged a combined $14.25 billion, but Britain and Italy were notably absent. Britain’s deepening economic crisis had some experts worried that the country would contribute little or nothing to the Fund.

Sands said: “Given the very challenging context, we are enormously appreciative of this strong pledge.”

Still, the amount is far short of the $2.15 billion requested from Britain and even less than the $1.68 billion contributed in the 2019 funding round.

Executive Director of StopAids, a health and human rights advocacy group based in Britain, Mike Podmore, said the requested amount is about .06 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“Without returning the aid budget to its former size, the UK will not be able to effectively respond to the global crises we are facing today. The global reputation of the UK as a leader in international development and global health is also at stake,” he said.