Belgian doctors have developed a low-cost version of test-tube baby technology for use in developing countries, where sophisticated Western systems are unaffordable for most couples.
The researchers said on Monday their simplified process cost around $260 per cycle of treatment and delivered results that were not much different to those seen with conventional in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) programmes.
The price is just 10 to 15% of the current cost of Western-style IVF and suggests infertility care could one day become universally accessible, Elke Klerkx from the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology told a medical meeting. Around 5 million babies have been born around the world since the birth of the first test-tube baby in 1978 — but the treatment remains largely the preserve of developed countries because of its high cost.
“Infertility care is probably the most neglected healthcare problem of developing countries, affecting more than 2 million couples according to the WHO,” Klerkx said.
In order to slash the price, Klerkx and her colleagues used an embryo culture method that removes the need for much of the expensive laboratory equipment found in European or North American IVF clinics. Results from a study showed similar success rates between the standard and low-cost system — and two-thirds of the top quality embryos from 35 cycles as assessed by an independent expert came from the simplified system.