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COVID-19 may be transmitted through sex

COVID-19 may be transmitted through sex

Last Reviewed : 12/25/2020
COVID-19 may be transmitted through sex

  • A study published in JAMA detected SARS-CoV-2 virus in the semen
  • The virus was found in the semen in both acutely infected and recovered COVID-19 individuals
  • While there is a possibility that COVID-19 may be transmitted through sex, this study proved only the presence of virus in the semen and it is not known yet if COVID-19 can definitely be transmitted through sex

 

COVID-19 transmission from human-to-human is mainly through respiratory droplets and touching contaminated objects. Fecal-oral route transmission can also occur as SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected in stools. The virus is also detected in saliva and urine samples. Based on the transmission modes, it is widely recommended to wear a face mask and wash hands regularly.

A new study published in JAMA on May 7, 2020, detected SARS-CoV-2 in the semen of COVID-19 affected people. In this study, 38 patients were enrolled for semen testing. Among these 38 participants, 23 participants achieved clinical recovery and 15 of them were still in acute stage of infection. 2 out of 23 (8.7%) semen samples of recovered patients tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus. 4 out of 15 (26.7%) semen samples of acutely infected patients tested positive for the virus.

This study demonstrates that semen may carry COVID-19 infection and there may be a possibility of sexual transmission of COVID-19. The presence of virus in the semen may be more common than previously considered.

This study proved only the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the semen. Although there is a possibility, it is still not known yet if COVID-19 is definitely transmitted through sex. More research may be needed to study the detailed information, including the virus survival time in the semen, concentration of the virus in the semen and clinical evidence that it can be transmitted through sex.

Nonetheless, as the SARS-CoV-2 is detected in the semen, it is wise to avoid sex or use condoms as a preventive measure. As the virus is also detected in the semen of recovered individuals, abstinence from sex or using condoms should be practiced for couple of weeks from the onset of symptoms.

Based on the current guidelines from CDC, infected individual should be in self-quarantine or isolation for a total of at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms and at least 3 days after the resolution of the symptoms whichever is longer. It may be prudent to avoid sex for another four days in addition to the recommended 10 days just as a precautionary measure until it is proven or disproven that COVID-19 can be transmitted through sex.

 

References:

Diangeng Li et al. Clinical characteristics and results of semen tests among men with coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(5):e208292. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8292

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