Study shows Ebola virus persists in semen of male survivors much longer than scientists previously thought
New study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine underline the importance of men wearing condoms during sexual intercourse to prevent sexual spread of Ebola virus, as a quarter of the men infested with Ebola virus were found to carry the virus in their seminal secretions even after 9 months after infection.
Due to huge numbers of Ebola-survivors in West Africa, the latest discovery can be of vital importance for preventing future outbreaks.
By analyzing the genetic code of the virus, researchers reported Ebola virus existence in a man’s semen for at least 179 after the symptoms break.
Moreover, after tracking 93 male survivors from Sierra Leone, the team of researchers reported that 26% of the men still presented traces of infectious virus in their semen seven to nine months after viral exposure. Further tests will follow to determine if the virus continues to be alive after the 9 months period.
Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, declared for the BBC that scientists did not reach a final conclusion regarding period of virus transmission:
“Does it mean they are still infectious or are they just fragments? We don’t have the definitive evidence yet.
“The degree of uncertainty is worrying, that’s why we need to take precautionary measures, so we advise survivors to take protection through contraception.”
Additionally, Professor David Heymann, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warns about the importance of safe sex:
“Condoms should be used as a precautionary measure until better understanding is gained through long-term study.
“This must be done in a way that prevents discrimination, and sociologists must work with health promotion teams and community leaders, as well as survivor groups, so that language is understandable and not offensive.
“Past outbreaks have not been reignited by survivors, but numbers have been small, and no sexual transmission was recorded prior to the current outbreaks.”