Methods to Remove HIV from Sperm ‘Inadequate,’ Japanese Researchers Warn
Researchers at the International Medical Center of Japan's AIDS Clinical Center, one of the nation's "foremost" hospitals specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment, have concluded that "existing techniques" to remove HIV from infected sperm are "not effective enough" for treated sperm to be used in artificial insemination, the Daily Yomiuri reports. Therefore the group, headed by Hospital Section Chief Shinichi Oka, will recommend in a February journal piece that "any clinical applications of the [removal] techniques should be precluded." Tottori University Hospital was the first in the nation to perform artificial insemination using techniques to remove HIV from an infected man's sperm. The group began examining two removal techniques -- separating the sperm from the virus and lymphocytes, and separating healthy sperm from infected sperm -- in October 1998 and used two types of tests with differing accuracy levels to verify the techniques' effectiveness. The "commonly used regular test" found the percentage of HIV-positive sperm in the sample to be reduced from 32% to 6% when either removal method was applied. However, the other test, eight times more sensitive, found half of the 22 samples were HIV-positive when either method was used. Takuma Shirosaka, chief researcher at the Osaka National Hospital's Clinical Research Institute, said Oka's conclusion "may be a little too circumspect because the testing methods they used were so accurate that even fragments of the HIV-virus that had no infectivity were detected (as being positive)." Shirosaka said that he was "concerned" about "indiscriminate application of the techniques without the knowledge of the medical authorities," but he indicated that he would support the introduction of such techniques at institutions that set up "appropriate ethical criteria for screening cases" (Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.