Sperm washing

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Sperm washing is the process in which individual sperms are separated from the seminal fluid. The sperms are then used in intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Sperm washing is a standard procedure used in infertility treatment.

Sperm may be "washed" by density gradient centrifugation or by a "direct swim-up" technique that doesn't involve centrifugation. In normal semen samples, centrifugation causes no more DNA damage to spermatozoa than a direct swim-up technique.[1]

Decreased HIV transmission[edit]

It can be used to decrease the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-positive fathers, because the HIV infection is carried by the seminal fluid rather than the sperm. One Italian study from 2005 of 567 serodiscordant couples treated with sperm washing resulted in no horizontal (to the woman) or vertical (to the child) HIV seroconversion.[2] However, there is no 100% guarantee that washed sperm is free from virus.[2]

Sperm washing was first used in Milan, Italy. The oldest child conceived using this method is now about 11 and is HIV negative. The first known American baby conceived this way, Baby Ryan, was born in 1999[3] through the Special Program of Assisted Reproduction started by Dr. Ann Kiessling

Starting in the mid-1990s it was adopted to help HIV discordant couples conceive without passing the virus from the father to the mother or child.[4] The idea is that when the male is HIV positive the technique will reduce the risk of transmission to the female. For years there were lingering doubts about the safety of the procedure, and many couples had to travel to locales that would do the procedure, such as Italy. Today, hundreds of babies have been born through this process.


  1. ^ Younglai EV, Holt D, Brown P, Jurisicova A, Casper RF (September 2001). "Sperm swim-up techniques and DNA fragmentation". Hum. Reprod. 16 (9): 1950–3. doi:10.1093/humrep/16.9.1950. PMID 11527903. 
  2. ^ a b About.com > HIV and Sperm Washing. By Mark Cichocki, R.N. Updated December 18, 2009
  3. ^ "Conceiving Ryan". American Radio Works. 
  4. ^ "Sperm Washing: How it Works". American Radio Works. 

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