Chinese researchers have found traces of COVID-19 in the semen of some severely infected men, including some who were recovering, in a small study.
The researchers examined semen samples from 38 hospitalised COVID-19 patients at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in China. Fifteen of the men were still in hospital and 23 had recovered.
They found six of them, or 16 percent, had the novel coronavirus in their semen. Five were from the acute group and two from the recovery group.
But the study does not confirm the disease is transmitted sexually. The researchers said more research is needed to determine the possible role of sexual transmission in the pandemic.
“Further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time and concentration in semen,” the team wrote in the study.
It was published on May 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Infectious disease experts say the new research doesn’t confirm whether or not COVID-19 is sexually transmitted. They say the presence of the pathogen in the semen doesn’t indicate whether it is active and capable of causing infection.
Prof Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at Sheffield University, told Reuters, “It shows that RNA for the virus responsible for COVID-19 can be detected in the semen of a proportion 16 per cent of men with a confirmed infection.
“This opens up the possibility that one route of infection may be through sexual contact, although this was not confirmed in the paper.
“However, we should not be surprised if the virus which causes COVID-19 is found in the semen of some men.
“[This has been] shown with many other viruses such as Ebola and Zika.”
Physical contact during sex carries a risk of COVID-19 transmission
But whether COVID-19 is sexually transmissible or not, physical contact during sex carries a very high risk of transmission anyway.
LGBTIQ health experts have urged the community to take a break from casual sex for now and follow physical distancing measures.
“Touching and kissing are key areas for transmission, and direct personal contact is a risk for transmission,” ACON has advised.
“We all need to play our part. It is important we look to other means to stay socially connected.
“[This includes] using alternative, more virtual means to engage with prospective sexual partners from the comfort of your own home.”
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