A new study from Chinese scientists found coronavirus particles in the semen of 16% of the male patients studied. The research which was published on Thursday now opens the possibility the disease could be transmitted sexually.
Doctors at China’s Shangqiu Municipal Hospital took samples from 38 men who were hospitalized with the deadly virus and found that six of them tested positive for the virus in their semen.
“If it could be proved that [the coronavirus] can be transmitted sexually … that might be a critical part of the prevention,” the team of researchers wrote in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Especially considering the fact that [it] was detected in the semen of recovering patients.”
However, the researchers warned that the study was not large enough and that more research is needed.
“Further studies are required with respect to the detailed information about virus shedding, survival time and concentration in semen,” the team wrote.
The research, which centered on men aged 16 or older between Jan. 26 and Feb. 16, reflects only a small chance that the virus can be transmitted sexually — but it is not uncommon, experts said.
“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,” Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at Britain’s Sheffield University, told Reuters.
Sheena Lewis, a professor of reproductive medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, added, “The long-term effects of [the virus] on male reproduction are not yet known.”
A previous study found that of 12 coronavirus patients in China, none of their semen tested positive.
The six who tested positive ranged in age from their 20s to their 50s.
“There was no significant difference between negative and positive test results for patients by age, urogenital disease history, days since onset, days since hospitalization, or days since clinical recovery,” the study authors wrote.