Researchers found evidence of the virus in six men out of a group of 38at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in China which provided samples.
The six men included four people who were still infected and two who were recovering, the researchers said.
The study was directed by Dr. Weiguo Zhao of the Beijing People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, and the results were published on May 7 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
It’s not surprising that the virus was found in semen samples, as it was also found in stool and other body fluids, said Dr. Ryan Berglund, urologist at the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic .
Infectious viruses are usually found in sperm,being a notable recent example. Chinese researchers noted that 27 different viruses have been detected in human sperm.
However, Berglund and infectious disease experts warn that this is not concrete evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted sexually.
“I think it’s premature,” said Berglund. “You should take this as a sign that sperm, like a number of other body fluids, may contain the virus. “
The new article follows another Chinese study that found no evidence of coronavirus in 34 men with mild to moderate COVID-19. This study was published in late April in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said that “the fact that the genetic material for the new coronavirus is found in the sperm of male patients is an important finding that will require follow-up study.” “
Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, agrees with the need for further research.
“For me, this triggers a warning, and now we have to attend to this warning and do some research,” said Poland.
But Adalja and Poland have doubts about the potential for sexual transmission of COVID-19.
“We know the virus is transmitted efficiently through the respiratory system and we have not seen any documented cases of sexual transmission, so this does not necessarily represent evidence of sexual transmissibility through the male genital tract,” said Adalja.
Poland noted that the new study is based on tests that only detect traces of the coronavirus genetic material.
“This does not tell you that it is a whole, viable infectious virus,” said Poland. “If I fix the virus and do this test, it would be positive even if this virus has no infectious potential. “