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Top 5 Contagion® News Articles for the Week of September 17, 2017


#1: Dozens of Viruses Can Be Detected in Human Semen

Since researchers found that the Zika virus was present in semen and can be passed through sex, health officials have warned of sexual transmission of the virus. Now in a recently published paper, researchers found evidence that more than two dozen additional viruses can be found in human semen, though many questions remain on how this may impact public health.

In 2015, a study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), detailed preliminary findings from an outbreak in French Polynesia on the presence of Zika virus in semen, suggesting that the flavivirus could be sexually transmitted. Although the Zika virus has primarily been thought of as a mosquito-borne disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, health officials investigated other transmission pathways of the virus in the wake of the Zika virus outbreak in South America and the subsequent rise in the number of infants born with microcephaly.

In 2016, prompted by a case of sexual transmission of the virus reported in Texas, the CDC released findings confirming that Zika can be transmitted from a male to his partner via semen. That year, the United States saw 46 cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus, and researchers have continued to investigate how long the virus can remain in semen and vaginal fluids. Zika virus RNA is typically undetectable in most men by about 3 months after infection but has been found in semen for up to 188 days following the start of illness.

In a new study, recently published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a pair of researchers investigating the persistence of viruses in seminal fluids conducted a review of 3818 articles found in a PubMed search. Noting that Zika virus RNA is often found in semen following infection, the authors acknowledged gaps in knowledge on the presence of other viruses in genital fluids. It is likely, they wrote, that many other viruses capable of causing viremia can be detected in semen. In addition, they noted that because the testes have a limited immune response to allow for the survival of sperm, viruses may remain present in the male reproductive tract even if they can’t replicate.

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