Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Belgium researchers have shown that low-cost In vitro fertilization (IVF) for developing and poor countries is feasible and effective.
The investigators suggest that infertility care may not be “universally accessible,” showing that a simplified IVF cycle could cost just $250.
“We showed that the IVF methodology can be significantly simplified and result in successful outcomes at levels that compare favorably to those obtained in high resource programs,” the study authors reported at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).
Investigator Dr. Elke Klerkx from the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology, Belgium, said that infertility care is probably the most neglected healthcare problem in developing countries, affecting more than two million couples. The low-cost IVF system tested was based on an embryo culture method that removes the need for an expensive IVF laboratory with CO2 incubators, medical gas supply and air purification systems.
The researchers studied IVF patients under the age of 36 with at least eight oocytes available for fertilization. The primary outcome measure was embryo quality at day three, while secondary outcomes were embryo implantation rate and ongoing pregnancy rate.
An analysis of outcomes showed similar rates of fertilization and embryo cleavage in both groups. However, 23 out of 35 cycles assessed the top quality embryo selected by an independent embryologist originated from the simplified culture system. The low-cost group implantation rate was 34.8 percent, with an ongoing pregnancy rate of 30.4 percent.
“Our initial results are proof of principle that a simplified culture system designed for developing countries can offer affordable and successful opportunities for infertility treatment where IVF is the only solution,” said Klerkx “This is a major step towards universal fertility care. If combined with single embryo transfer and low stimulation protocols, we estimate the cost of a treatment cycle can be less than 200 euro – with laboratory costs between 10 percent and 15 percent of those in Western-style programs.”
She warned that the low cost would only be possible if a low-cost laboratory based on the simplified culture system were available.
“In developed countries the cost of setting-up a high-quality IVF lab is between [$1.9 million to $3.8 million US], but we would expect to set up a low-cost lab for less than [$386,000 US],” explained Klerkx.
Elke added the simplified lab procedure will open up a new era in the history of IVF.
“The method not only offers affordable and successful access to IVF, but will make effective treatment techniques available to a much larger part of the world’s infertile population,” Klerkx concluded. “This, therefore, may also be considered an important breakthrough in terms of human rights, equity and social justice.”