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Doctors find coronavirus in semen of infected men, sparking debate on sexual transmission of covid-19

Published on:9 May 2020, 12:53pm IST
As a new study finds covid-19 virus in semen of infected patients, its findings completely debunk a previous research which claims covid-19 doesn’t spread via sperm.
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The jury is still out on whether covid-19 can spread via sexual transmission. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.
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One of the biggest questions on everybody’s lips since the covid-19 pandemic began is whether this infection can spread via sexual intercourse. While doctors suggest that close proximity with your partner is a cause of concern, researchers claim covid-19 doesn’t spread via sperm. 

A study published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility in April claims that covid-19 doesn’t spread via sperm. In fact the co-author of the study, James M Hotaling from the University of Utah, US, said: “The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes covid-19 doesn’t show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding.”

However, another study-just recently published in the prestigious journal JAMA Network Open-has found that sperm can indeed carry the covid-19 virus. 

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Yes, sperm might increase the risk of covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What does this new research have to say?
Conducted by doctors at China’s Shangqiu Municipal Hospital, the study examined 38 men hospitalised with covid-19 and found traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the semen samples of six of them. 

As the debate on this infectious disease spreading via sexual transmission begins again, the researchers call for further examination of their findings. 

“Further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time and concentration in semen,” the researchers wrote in the journal.  

“If it could be proved that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted sexually … (that) might be a critical part of the prevention, especially considering the fact that SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the semen of recovering patients,” they added. 

Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at Britain’s Sheffield University, also suggests that we should not take this study to be the final word on the matter because of insufficient research and technical limitations. 

He said:

The presence of SARS-CoV-2 in sperm did not show whether it is active and capable of causing infection.

“However, 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,” he added.

Sheena Lewis, a professor of reproductive medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, also stressed upon the small sample size of the study and why more research is needed to get to better insights before reaching a conclusion. 

“Its findings were in keeping with other small studies showing low or no SARS-CoV-2 in tests of semen samples,” Lewis said. “However, the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on male reproduction are not yet known.”

Having sex with a covid-19 infected person is not a good idea. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

As the ambiguity around sexual transmission of covid-19 rises, just keep this in mind: while science is yet to prove whether sperm and vaginal fluids can spread the virus, close proximity with a partner can put you at risk. 

Since many covid-19 patients don’t show any symptoms, if you or your partner have come in contact with someone even suspected of the disease, keep the hanky-panky for a later time please.  

(With inputs from Reuters)

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