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22 May 2006
Genetic Disorder Transmitted In Donor Sperm

As fertility procedures such as in-vitro fertilization and donor insemination become more commonplace, doctors say women seeking fertility treatment should be counseled on the risk of genetic disorders arising from the use of donor sperm. A study in the The Journal of Pediatrics warns that, even after thorough screenings of sperm donors, genetic disorders can be transmitted to the conceived children.

The study focused on five children conceived by in-vitro fertilization or donor insemination who had severe congenital neutropenia -a genetic disorder characterized by abnormally low levels of certain white blood cells in the body. Because these white blood cells help fight bacterial infections by destroying invading bacteria, people with congenital neutropenia are more susceptible to recurring infections and are at greater risk for developing leukemia.

Led by Laurence Boxer, from the University of Michigan, the study found that the same sperm donor was used for all five pregnancies. After conducting sophisticated genetic testing, Boxer established that the sperm donor was the carrier of the gene. Once informed, the sperm bank discarded the remaining samples.

Boxer said that because it was virtually impossible to screen for all conceivable genetic disorders, it was imperative that potential mothers be counseled and informed prior to the procedures. "The mothers need to be prepared that there is always an inherent risk of a genetic disorder being transmitted by the donor's sperm," he concluded.

Source: The Journal of Pediatrics


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