‘Why COVID-19 traces in semen shouldn’t cause panic’ –Medical Experts

Experts in male reproduction have said the discovery of coronavirus  in the semen of some male patients should not cause panic, because the research was done on a small population and would need further studies.

This is in response to Chinese researchers who, in a new study, said the new coronavirus could be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and might still be detected in the semen of recovering patients.

It may be recalled that the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had said there was no scientific proof that the contagion could be sexually transmitted.

The former Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS spoke in response to questions during the PTF daily briefing sometime in April. He said although the contagion was still new, no research had showed then that it could be sexually transmitted. Aliyu had said:

“At the moment, there is no evidence of sexual transmission when it comes to COVID-19; but of course, we are still in the early days of the disease.

“The same thing happened in the case of Ebola when it was subsequently proved that it was sexually transmissible.”

He made the statement a few days after the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had warned of “high possibility” of the virus being transmitted sexually (read here). Ehanire had warned:

“If a person is positive, the virus can be transmitted sexually. This suggests that the viral infection could be transmitted sexually.

However, the new study, conducted at China’s Shangqiu Municipal Hospital, was published in the influential Journal of the American Medical Association Network, Open.

Led by Dr. Diangeng Li, the study involved 38 patients undergoing treatment for severe COVID-19 disease. Of these 38 participants who provided a semen specimen, 23 participants (60.5 percent) had achieved clinical recovery and 15 participants (39.5 percent) were at the acute stage of infection.

The results of semen testing found that 6 patients (15.8 percent) had results positive for SARS-CoV-2, including 4 of 15 patients (26.7 percent) who were at the acute stage of infection and 2 of 23 patients (8.7 percent) who were recovering.

According to Li, the study is limited by the small sample size and the short subsequent follow-up. Therefore, further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time, and concentration in semen. Li said:

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“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.

“Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients. In addition, it is worth noting that there is a need for studies monitoring fetal development. Therefore, to avoid contact with the patient’s saliva and blood may not be enough, since the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others.

“Our study might contribute by providing new information to the current discourse regarding COVID-19 prevention and control.”

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, an epidemiologist at Havard University, Dr. Ibraheem Abioye, said,

“Finding virus components in semen may not necessarily mean that the virus is present in semen, and may not mean that the disease can be transmitted by sexual intercourse. Out of the abundance of caution, I would say that we don’t know enough, but we currently believe that there is no reason to fret.”

Abioye said the study calls for more research, adding,

“For one, it is necessary to reassure the public, and to better clarify the transmission of the disease. The issue of sexual transmission is probably not as important as the public perceives it, though.

If the disease is transmitted by nasal droplets, you have a very good chance of contracting it during sexual intercourse — not necessarily because it is transmitted via the semen — but just via the airway.

So, the ultimately important question is, should you have sex with a person who has COVID-19? If they’re asymptomatic, you have a great probability of contracting it just by being in proximity with each other.”

Again, a professor of andrology [medical specialty that deals with male health] at Sheffield University in the UK, Allan Pacey, said the studies should not be seen as conclusive, as there were some technical difficulties in testing semen for viruses.

He said the presence of Sars-CoV-2 in sperm did not show whether it is active and capable of causing infection. He said:

“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.”

Speaking in the same vein, a professor of reproductive medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, Sheena Lewis, stressed that this was a “very small study” and that its findings were in keeping with other small studies showing low or no Sars-CoV-2 in tests of semen samples.

“However, the long-term effects of Sars-CoV-2 on male reproduction are not yet known,” she said.

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