It’s starting to feel like coronavirus is everywhere. It can live on surfaces, clothes and in air droplets. Pets can get infected. COVID-19 can be detected in the saliva, urine, and feces of COVID-positive people, and now, scientists have learned that it is also detectable in semen.
According to research published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, not only was coronavirus present in the semen of sick patients but also in some of the patients who were considered recovered. However, it is noteworthy that not all of the patients who were tested were found to carry the virus in their ejaculate. Of the 38 males tested, six were found to have the virus in their semen.
Of those six, four were at the acute stage of the virus when they were tested. Two were in recovery. The males tested were 15 and older. Of the six with COVID-19 in their semen: Two were in their 20s; two were in their 30s; one was in his 40s and the other was in his 50s. Their symptoms had been present for a range of six to 16 days.
The authors of the new study published in JAMA said, “the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others.”
It is Still Not Known if COVID-19 Can Be Sexually Transmitted
According to the researchers, “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 researchers said that if it’s discovered that the virus can be spread by sex, then people could take measures to abstain or use condoms. Though it’s not clear whether it could be known if the virus was transferred via sexual fluids or saliva or respiratory droplets, as all of those things would likely be exchanged in a sexual encounter.
They say researchers know of 27 viruses that are present in semen, and there could be more, so it’s not that surprising that the virus was found in some of the cases. What may be more surprising is that they were able to do this kind of research at all when some of the patients were very ill.
In fact, the study started with 50 infected patients who gave written informed consent to donate a sample of their sperm. But according to JAMA, of the “50 patients identified, 12 patients were unable to provide a semen specimen because of erectile dysfunction, being in a comatose state, or dying prior to recruitment.”
Other Infectious Diseases Like Ebola And Zika Can be Sexually Transmitted
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Contrary to prevalent belief, the detection of viral genomes in semen tends to be more common among viruses that are typically not sexually transmitted…However, although such detection should not come as a surprise, the contribution of it to virus transmission and consequently to epidemiology, disease burden, and public health needs to be defined.”
In other words, we don’t really know how often a virus that is not considered an STD is actually transmitted through sex.
The NEJM says both the Ebola Virus and the Zika Virus have been found in patients with symptoms and “disease survivors,” raising the question of whether a virus can be sexually transmitted even after a patient is considered to be recovered.