Chinese research showed the presence of coronavirus in the semen of infected men, but further study should be done to determine if “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS–CoV–2)” could be sexually transmitted.
The study entitled “Clinical Characteristics and Results of Semen Tests Among Men With Coronavirus Disease 2019” was published in JAMA Network Open medical journal on May 7.
“This cohort study was performed after patients gave written informed consent for research purposes, and in compliance with the Helsinki Declaration3 with the approval of the ethics committee of Shangqiu Municipal Hospital, Shangqiu, China. This study is reported following the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) reporting guideline,” the researchers said.
The Chinese scientists identified all male patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 aged 15 years and older between January 26, 2020, and February 16, 2020, in Shangqiu Municipal Hospital.
A total of 38 patients were enrolled for the research gave a semen sample for SARS-CoV-2 testing.
Coronavirus traced in semen of infected men
“Of these 38 participants who provided a semen specimen, 23 participants (60.5%) had achieved clinical recovery and 15 participants (39.5%) were at the acute stage of infection. Results of semen testing found that 6 patients (15.8%) had results positive for SARS-CoV-2, including 4 of 15 patients (26.7%) who were at the acute stage of infection and 2 of 23 patients (8.7%) who were recovering, which is particularly noteworthy,” the results said.
“But there was no significant difference between negative and positive test results for patients by age, urogenital disease history, days since onset, days since hospitalization, or days since clinical recovery. The clinical characteristics of patients with positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 in semen,” it added.
The researchers 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.
“Owing to the imperfect blood-testes/deferens/epididymis barriers, SARS-CoV-2 might be seeded to the male reproductive tract, especially in the presence of systemic local inflammation. Even if the virus cannot replicate in the male reproductive system, it may persist, possibly resulting from the privileged immunity of testes,” it said.
The researchers, however, said, “the presence of viruses in semen may be more common than currently understood, and traditional non–sexually transmitted viruses should not be assumed to be totally absent in genital secretions.”
They also said they need further studies to determine the coronavirus’s 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,” the results said adding “Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients.”