18.5.20

COVID-19 found in semen of recovered patients. Is it a STD?

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(Tribune News Service) — The virus that causes COVID-19 can be present in the semen of patients who have the coronavirus, as well as those recovering from it, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open.

Fifty men were enrolled in the study's testing, however only 38 were able to provide a semen sample.

Twenty-three of the participants who were able to provide a semen sample recovered from their COVID-19 infection. Two of these recovered patients had COVID-19 in their semen, which is particularly noteworthy, the study said.

The other 15 patients "were at the acute stage of infection," and of this group, four patients had the virus causing COVID-19 in their semen.


Since the study size is small, authors of the study acknowledged more research has to be done.

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

Dr. Lauren Streicher, founder and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause, said there's not enough information yet to determine if COVID-19 can be sexually transmitted.

"Being identified in sperm is not the same as it being a sexually transmitted infection," said Streicher. "The only way to know that, after intercourse, is to also identify it in vaginal tissues or cervical tissues by culture."

You can't give someone a sexually-transmitted infection like gonorrhea or chlamydia, for example, from a respiratory root, explained Streicher. So if two people are together and one person gives it to the other one, you know it has to be sexual since there's no other way to get it, she said.

"When you have the coronavirus, and if someone's having sex and the woman gets it, did she get it because he was breathing and coughing on her," asked Streicher, "or did she get it because he had it in his semen? Unless you identify it in her vaginal tissues and secretions, who knows?"

But just because it hasn't been determined yet, doesn't mean there's zero chance of the coronavirus being transmitted sexually.

"It's in the semen, so it's possible that it might be sexually transmitted, but that has not been documented," said Streicher. While you should be practicing safe sex anyway, "if someone is concerned, then in addition to masking their face, they need to mask his penis."

Because the study sample was small, there also can't be a determination of how common or rare it is to find COVID-19 in semen. If you want to be extra careful so you can keep having that quarantine sex, Streicher says be sure to stay protected.

"Because we know that it's spread from close contact, most people that are swapping semen are also swapping spit," said Streicher. "For the concerned person, mask on the top and bottom."

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