The centre insisted the chance the mistake happened remains small and may not have affected all 26 couples - however it "cannot be ruled out”
An IVF treatment centre in the Netherlands has launched an investigation after finding 26 women may have been fertilised by sperm cells from the wrong man.
The University Medical Centre in Utrecht (UMCU) has apologised for what it called a “procedural error” that had the potential to result in one man fathering 26 children to strangers.
In a statement, the medical centre said sperm cells from one couple "may have ended up with the egg cells of 26 other couples" between April 2015 and November 2016.
The centre insisted the chance the mistake happened remains small and may not have affected all 26 couples - however it "cannot be ruled out.”
Half of the women who received treatment have so far become pregnant or given birth.
“The supervisory board regrets having to burden the couples involved with this news and everything will be done to provide clarity for everyone as soon as possible,” reads the statement.
“For the couples involved, a personal meeting with the treating doctor will take place in the near future during which their questions can be answered.”
The centre went on to say that "for some of the 26 couples, frozen embryos are still available but the chance remains that they (too) have been fertilised by the sperm from a man other than the intended father.
Officials at the facility are now conducting an investigation into how the mistake could have occurred and have significantly reduced the centre’s activities until the investigation is complete.
IVF is intended as a way of allowing people who might otherwise not be able to conceive to do so.
During the process, mature eggs are collected from a woman's ovaries and fertilised by sperm in a laboratory with one or more fertilised eggs then implanted in the uterus.
The error in Utrecht is not the first to have occurred. In 2012, a mother sued a clinic in Singapore after it mixed up her husband's sperm with that of a stranger.
The woman, who was ethnically Chinese, believed something was wrong when her baby had a different skin tone and hair colour from her Caucasian husband.