Scientists are worried that the new technique of sperm injection to help infertile couples is escalating before it has been properly tested.
They fear that the safety of the procedure has not been proven, and that it could harm the fetus and pass on infertility to future generations.
A newer technique involves the injection of spermatids, the precursors of sperm, which are found in the testicles and semen of many infertile men.
Doctors at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, recently voiced concerns about the technique when five of the 12 women given sperm injections showed abnormalities in the fetus (WDDTY, vol. 6, no. 8).
Their concerns are shared by others, including Prof Axel Kahn at the Cochin Hospital's Institute of Molecular Genetics in Paris. He argues that infertile couples can be treated just as well with donor sperm.
The technique was developed in 1992 in Belgium, and about 900 children have so far been born as a result. It is thought about 100 French teams are already practising the technique, even though the pioneers wanted it to be used by a few, controlled groups until its safety had been confirmed (BMJ, October 7, 1995).