HealthDay News — Ebola virus can persist in semen, according to two reports published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Suzanne E. Mate, PhD, from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland, and colleagues described a suspected case of sexual transmission from a male Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivor to his female partner, which occurred in Liberia in March 2015. Blood samples from the female patient and a semen sample from the survivor were analyzed for Ebola virus genomes. 

The researchers noted that the Ebola virus genomes were consistent with direct transmission. Three substitutions were shared by the genomes; these were absent from all other Western African Ebola virus sequences and were different from the last documented transmission chain in Liberia.


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G.F. Deen, from Connaught Hospital in Sierra Leone, and colleagues enrolled a convenience sample of male survivors of EVD to examine Ebola virus persistence in semen. The researchers found that 49 percent of the 93 participants who provided an initial semen specimen for analysis had positive results on quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. 

Ebola virus RNA was identified in the semen of all nine men who had a specimen obtained two to three months after EVD onset and in 65 and 26 percent of the 40 and 43 men who had a specimen obtained at four to six months and at seven to nine months after onset, respectively.

“These data showed the persistence of Ebola virus RNA in semen and declining persistence with increasing months since the onset of EVD,” Deen and colleagues write.

Reference

1. Mate SE, Kugelman JR, Nyenswah TG, et al. Molecular Evidence of Sexual Transmission of Ebola Virus. N Engl J Med. 2015; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1509773

2. Gibrilla F. Deen GF, Kust B, Broutet N, et al.  Ebola RNA Persistence in Semen of Ebola Virus Disease Survivors — Preliminary Report. N Engl J Med. 2015; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1511410.