New research published Friday in the journal Fertility and Sterility reveals that although the COVID-19 coronavirus can easily be transmitted through a single cough, it most likely cannot be sexually transmitted, unlike other infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika.
In the study, conducted by scientists in the US and China, researchers found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – in the semen of 34 adult Chinese men who had tested positive for the virus around a month earlier.
“SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in the semen of patients recovering from COVID-19 one month after COVID-19 diagnosis … The long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on male reproductive function remain unknown,” the study concluded. The researchers also conducted additional tests which determined that SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to infect human testicular cells.
However, the study was not “comprehensive enough” to completely rule out the possibility that the virus could be transmitted through sex, the release noted.
“The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding,” co-author Dr. James M. Hotaling of the University of Utah Health said in an April 22 news release.
“If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man’s long-term reproductive health.”
The scientists also revealed that none of the 34 patients in the study were severely ill with COVID-19.
“It could be that a man who is critically ill with COVID-19 might have a higher viral load, which could lead to a greater likelihood of infecting the semen. We just don’t have the answer to that right now. But knowing that we didn’t find that kind of activity among the patients in this study who were recovering from mild to moderate forms of the disease is reassuring,” Hotaling explained.
Although the study suggests the virus most likely cannot be passed through sex, it can still be spread through other intimate contact like kissing.