Coronavirus can spread through SEX, say experts after finding virus in semen of recovered men as well

One in every six samples, including those who had successfully defeated Covid-19, had traces of the virus


                            Coronavirus can spread through SEX, say experts after finding virus in semen of recovered men as well
(Getty Images)

A recent study by Chinese researchers found that there was a distinct possibility that coronavirus could be transmitted through unprotected sex.  

According to the study, conducted at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital, the only designated center for the treatment of Covid-19 in Shangqiu, Henan province, traces of the virus were detected in the semen of men who had contracted the infection. 

For the purpose of this research, semen samples from 38 men, over the age of 15, who had tested positive for the virus between January 26 and February 16,  were collected by scientists. Out of the group of men, 39.5 percent were in the acute stage of infection, while the rest had recovered from the virus. One in six, including those who had successfully defeated the virus, had traces of SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the novel coronavirus, in their semen, Daily Mail reported. 

Although the study did not prove beyond a doubt that the virus can be transmitted through sex, it did hint at the possibility. As a result, experts are now advising people who are battling the virus or have successfully recovered from infection in recent times to abstain from sex. 

The age range of the men who tested positive for the virus in the study was from the 20s to 50s. Out of them, three had an underlying health condition. Since no further tests were conducted during the study, it was unclear as to whether the virus survived in their semen for a long period of time and if it was viable.

"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. Even if the virus cannot replicate in the male reproductive system, it may persist. Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients," lead author of the study, Dr Diangeng Li, of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing, suggested.

Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus (Covid-19) in set-up tents to triage possible Covid-19 patients outside before they enter the main Emergency department area at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx on March 24, 2020 in New York City (Getty Images)

The doctor added: "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."

Professor Richard Sharpe, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh commented on the findings of the study, saying that traces of the virus found in the semen of men might end up contributing to the spread of the virus in the future.

"This finding raises the possibility that Covid-19 might also be transmissible via semen (and thus via sexual contact), perhaps including during the recovery phase — which would have disease management implications," he said.

Former chair of the British Fertility Society Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at University of Sheffield agreed to Sharpe, adding: "This opens up the possibility that one route of infection may be through sexual contact, although this was not confirmed in the paper. 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."

Urologist Dr James Hotaling, co-author of the study, at the University of Utah Health said, "if a disease like Covid-19 were sexually transmittable that would have major implications for disease prevention," warning that it may have had "serious consequences for a man's long-term reproductive health."

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