Months after the first reports of the novel Coronavirus, researchers are still in the process of discovering new aspects of the disease that have laid low.
We know so far that human-to-human transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for COVID-19, is mainly through respiratory droplets and through contact.
Research has detected SARS-CoV-2 in stool, gastrointestinal tract, saliva, and urine samples.
Chinese researchers are now reporting that “SARS-CoV-2 can be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and may still be detected in the semen of recovering patients”.
The New York Times, which first reported on the new research, said that there is no evidence yet to disprove the widely held belief that, while coronavirus can be transmitted through kissing, it cannot be sexually transmitted. Experts told the paper that the research had not confirmed if the fragments of coronavirus found in semen were infectious.
The research report was published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open by Dr. Weiguo Zhao, of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at The Eighth Medical Center of Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing and Dr. Shixi Zhang, Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in Shangqiu.
Thirty-eight male patients, aged 15 and older and who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, were part of the study conducted between January 26 and February 16, 2020, at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital.
Of the 38 participants, 23 had achieved clinical recovery and 15 were in the acute stage of infection. Tests of semen specimens provided by the patients found that six patients (15.8 %) had detected the presence of SARS-CoV-2.
This included four who were in the acute stage of infection and two who were recovering (but “particularly noteworthy”).
The researchers said that their study was limited by the small sample size and short subsequent follow-up.
“Further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time, and concentration in semen”.
“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. Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients,” the researchers said.
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