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Sperm Washing Procedure Has Been Done Since 1989

Dina Faisal Dina Faisal
3rd June 2022
Sperm Washing Procedure Has Been Done Since 1989
For decades, sperm washing has been used in reproductive biology (Getty).

The Claim

A young South African embryologist performs a ground-breaking procedure to remove the HIV virus from sperm.

Emerging story

Social media users are widely circulating a claim that South African scientist Lebo Moatshe successfully removed HIV from a sperm cell in a lab. Users called it a "medical breakthrough."

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Misbar’s Analysis

The Misbar team investigated the claim and discovered it to be misleading, as the process known as sperm washing is common and has been used in reproductive biology for decades.

Origin of the Claim

By closely reviewing the claims, it was found that their circulation began after a long thread of tweets from Lebo, where she says she's "done 20 semen decontamination procedures (removing HIV from semen) so far" and "managed to successfully remove the virus from all semen samples." She explains the process and says she's an embryologist and can't cure viruses. The thread was misinterpreted and widely shared. Lebo later tweeted that she was not the first to do the procedure. "It has been done by many over a period of years," the young scientist added. It is quite common in reproductive biology. As an intern, I only recently learned the skill, hence my post." As shown in the screenshot below.

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Sperm Washing

Sperm washing is the process of removing the HIV virus from sperm. It is performed when a couple with an HIV-negative woman and an HIV-positive man wishes to have a healthy, infection-free child. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is used in the removal process, which has been used successfully for decades. 

Despite this, the procedure has yet to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A meta-analysis of 40 studies published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2016 discovered no HIV transmissions from 11,585 sperm washing procedures prior to IVF or IUI in nearly 4,000 women. The first study of sperm washing was conducted in 1989, "with the use of intrauterine insemination (IUI)."

Based on the findings, the Misbar team confirms that the claim is misleading, sperm washing is not a breakthrough procedure and has been studied and done since 1989.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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