Sperm and egg courier sees surge in demand during pandemic
- Credit: Foto: www.megyliterova.cz
A sperm and egg courier business in Islington is grappling with a surge in demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
CTshipper usually transports an average of 250 gamete cells by hand from its base at City Fertility clinic in St John Street, Islington, and from its parent company Gennet in the Czech Republic to fertility clinics all over the world each year.
However, since June 2020 when its couriers were given the green light to travel again following the first lockdown, the business has already carried 300 specimens, 90 of which were organised in Islington.
CTshipper’s managing director Lukas Beranek attributes the spike to a range of factors, including a backlog of patients, a knock-on effect of the global crisis on couples’ outlook and travel bans forcing patients to import samples from their chosen clinic.
The Hackney resident said: “There’s quite a lot of unknowns, but even that being said, people want this now, they want to get this done – they want to get treatment.”
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Lukas claimed CTshipper was the first UK-based provider of hand-carried, door-to-door transport of embryos and gametes when it started in 2013.
In order to transport them by hand, samples have to be stored at -197C in a “dry shipper” flask which works similarly to a normal thermos - just “a bit more scientific,” Lukas added.
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He said the flask can be alarming for other airline passengers when it is brought onto the plane as hand luggage.
“I know we have scared a few people over the years – just the flask itself,” Lukas said. “It’s something they don’t see on a regular basis.
“It’s a sensitive point while transporting from that point of view.”
The 30-year-old added: “What I really like about the whole business is to be able to help people.
“I haven’t had treatment or struggled to conceive, so I can’t imagine what they are experiencing, but when it’s successful - and it’s unfortunately not successful in 100 per cent of cases – if it’s successful, you can do miracles.”
Maida Vale’s Monico Amos is Lukas’ transport coordinator at CTshipper.
He said: “The job is really good in terms of getting to travel to many different places that you wouldn’t have expected to travel to before, we get to meet lots of new people, we get to visit lots of fertility clinics and see how they operate.
“It can be challenging sometimes. It’s not always a holiday because sometimes I would have to make a trip to the Czech Republic and fly back on the same day, and it can be challenging in terms of having to deal with people at the airport if you get held up at customs services or don’t have all your papers.”
The 29-year-old, who lived for some of his life in the Philippines, is classed as an essential worker and does not have to quarantine on his return: “Initially when Covid happened, we were all quite scared because we didn’t know what this virus was and I was very uncomfortable with travelling abroad, but over time, because of the measures the government has put in place, it has put people at ease.
“For example, it does give me an opportunity to get out of the house which some people haven’t had the chance to do because of the restrictions but I understand I am doing this for the patients' welfare and the fact that they are having treatment and having a chance to have a baby.”
Treatment has to coincide with a patient’s biological cycle to give them the best chance of conceiving.
Patients have to consider a number of factors when choosing a clinic, Monico added, including treatment plans offered and the potential for different donor characteristics.
Lukas said there is not enough diversity in donors in the UK: “At our clinic, we see a wide range of patients from different ethnicities and some women seeking donor eggs are struggling because there are not enough eggs other than those from white European/British donors, which is very sad considering there are 18 ethnic groups that are currently used by the UK government for population analysis.”
For more information about CTShipper and Gennet’s clinics, visit https://www.city-fertility.com/