EQASRM creates three semen pools from carefully screened specimens, from which samples for testing are dispensed. We aim to provide samples with varying concentrations, all similar to those commonly assessed in the laboratory. The pools are fixed with a semen dilution fluid containing formaldehyde. The fourth sample sent for evaluation of concentration is a suspension of latex beads in serum.
The latex beads are of a similar diameter to that of a sperm head and are at a set concentration. By sending samples of this nature the laboratory is able to assess them as it would any sample it receives. Therefore, all variables such as mixing, pipetting, dilution, chamber differences and so on are tested.
Semen samples that are sent as part of the Sperm Concentration scheme, are also used by laboratories enrolled in Sperm Morphology. Laboratories create their own smears using the samples, stain and assess them according to their usual protocol. One pre-stained semen slide is also sent for assessment. This removes the “staining” variable and we are then able to compare the results reported by labs based only on the criteria used for morphological assessment.
It would not be possible to send ‘live’ semen samples to labs given factors such as delays in transportation and temperature maintenance. Therefore, EQASRM sends out footage of semen samples recorded during microscopic evaluation. Recordings of four samples are done at 37C°, using an inverted or phase contrast microscope. Six fields of view per sample are recorded, each lasting approximately 20-25 seconds. Labs are asked to report the motility of each sample using the WHO 5th edition, 3 category system. This is so results can be standardized and appropriately compared with others.