Coronavirus detected in sperm of infected men

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A small study in China has revealed the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the sperm of several infected or recently recovered men. However, sexual transmission of the virus still seems very unlikely.

We knew that SARS-CoV-2 could reach the lungs, but also the kidneys, the heart, the liver or even the gastrointestinal tract. We now know that it can end up in the seminal fluid according to the results of a study carried out in China, published this Thursday (May 7) in the journal JAMA Network Open. A surprising discovery, but (for the moment) not very disturbing.

The research, led by Dr. Shixi Zhang, from Shangqiu Municipal Hospital (Henan), involved 38 men from Shangqiu, China. All had tested positive for Covid-19 and all had symptoms of the disease or had recently recovered. Each participant provided a semen sample, which the doctors then analyzed to assess the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

At the end of this work, the researchers detected the presence of the virus in the semen of six participants, or 16% of the sample. Of these, four patients were currently exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and two patients had recently recovered.

However, it is important to note that if researchers did detect genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in semen, the study does not prove that these viral particles are still “viable” or capable of transmitting an infection.

“This is an interesting discovery, but you have to confirm that there is an infectious virus – not just a viral product in the sperm, explains to the New York Times Dr. Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology, immunology and pediatrics at the University of Iowa. For the moment, there is no evidence that a person can be infected through sexual contact or through an intrauterine insemination procedure with infected sperm. “

Transmission during sexual intercourse is therefore much more likely by the usual means, namely infectious respiratory droplets.

In addition, it is not known how long the virus persists in semen, since study participants were still experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 or had only recently recovered (both affected patients reported “getting feel better ”than for only two to three days).

Finally, another limit, let us remember that other studies have not isolated the presence of the coronavirus in patients who had recovered for a longer time. One of them, published on April 17 in the journal Fertility and Sterility, which involved 34 men in Wuhan, China, for example had not detected any genetic material specific to the pathogen in patients about a month after their diagnosis.