Coronavirus could be sexually transmitted by recovering patients, new research shows
‘The survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others,’ the study warns
The virus was found in the semen of a small number of men who had tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in China. Doctors at China’s Shangqiu municipal hospital analyzed the sperm of 38 men and found SARS-CoV-2 in some of their semen.
The study was based on a small sample size, so more work would need to be done to establish whether the coronavirus can be sexually transmitted. If so, this would be a worrying development because it means the disease could be transmitted human-to-human beyond respiratory droplets and contact.
The results are at odds with other small studies, also conducted in China, in February and March, which did not find traces of the disease in the semen of men who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The research, which was published on Thursday on the international peer-reviewed general medical journal JAMA Network, stated: “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.
“This study is limited by the small sample size and the short subsequent follow-up. Therefore, further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time, and concentration in semen.”
A total of 50 patients were identified for the study, which reported that 12 were unable to provide a semen specimen because of erectile dysfunction, being in a comatose state, or dying prior to recruitment.
The results showed a total of 38 patients were enrolled for semen testing. Of these, 23 participants (60.5%) had recovered and 15 (39.5%) were at the acute stage of infection. Tests found that 6 patients (15.8%) had positive results for SARS-CoV-2, including 4 of 15 patients (26.7%) who were at the acute stage of infection, and crucially 2 of 23 patients (8.7%) who were recovering, which the study warns is “particularly noteworthy.”
To avoid contact with the patient’s saliva and blood may not be enough, since the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others.
“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 report said. “Therefore, to avoid contact with the patient’s saliva and blood may not be enough, since the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others.”
Last month in France new evidence showed nicotine could be preventing smokers from catching the coronavirus-borne COVID-19, but the data also showed that, once caught, the disease is more serious if patients happen to be smokers.