Study: COVID-19 found in semen of infected men — sexual transmission unclear

A new study has suggested the possibility of men transmitting COVID-19 sexually after the virus was said to have been found in their semen days after recovering from the novel disease.

The new research comes a month after another study had claimed that men may be more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus than women because of their reproductive organs (testicles).

According to the latest study published in Journal of the American Medical Association on Thursday, samples of 38 patients who had the virus were taken in January and February at Shangqiu municipal hospital, China.

The Chinese researchers said findings from their experiment on the taken samples revealed that 16% of them showed evidence of the virus in their semen.

“We found that SARS-CoV-2 can be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and SARS-CoV-2 may still be detected in the semen of recovering patients,” the researchers said.

“If it could be proved that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted sexually in future studies, sexual transmission might be a critical part of the prevention of transmission, especially considering the fact that SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the semen of recovering patients.”

The researchers added that the findings mean men who have been infected with the novel disease before should abstain from having sex or consider using condoms if they have to.

“Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients. In addition, it is worth noting that there is a need for studies monitoring fetal development,” they said.

The researchers, however, pointed out that the findings were preliminary and limited by scope, adding that there is need for more comprehensive studies to prove the virus could be transmitted sexually or not.

“Further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time, and concentration in semen,” they added.

Also commenting, Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at Sheffield University in the UK, said there is need for more studies, noting that the findings of the Chinese researchers should not be seen as conclusive.

According to him, this becomes essential due to the possibility of having technical difficulties in testing semen for viruses.

Pacey said that the existence of the Sars-CoV-2 in men’s semen as revealed by the study did not show whether it is active and capable of causing infection.

“However, we should not be surprised if the virus which causes Covid-19 is found in the semen of some men, since this has been shown with many other viruses such as Ebola and Zika,” he told Guardian UK.

On her part, Sheena Lewis, a professor of reproductive medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, stressed that this was a “very small study”, adding that “the long-term effects of Sars-CoV-2 on male reproduction are not yet known.”

The study further lends credence to previous studies that viruses such as Ebola and Zika could stay in the semen for months after patients have recovered.

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