After a man is infected with Zika, the virus is often detected in his semen. Taking this into account, researchers at Oxford University asked themselves a question: What if Zika is not the only virus that can survive on semen? Apparently, the presence of Zika in the semen is not an unusual case. There are 26 other viruses that can survive there.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have published a study that shows that the presence of viruses in semen is more widespread than is currently understood. There are several reasons and theories to explain this, according to the researchers. These include imperfect barriers that protect sperm and the immune privilege of the testicles (the immune system is not as severe with this area). The researchers released their findings in November in the scientific publication Emerging Infectious Diseases .
To carry out the study, the researchers carried out a search of scientific publications with the terms “virus”, “semen” and their synonyms. The search returned more than 3,800 results. They then analyzed each publication to see if there were incidences of virus surviving in the semen.
They found that there were at least 27 different viruses that could survive there. Of these, many cause chronic or latent infections (infections that go undetected for a long time). There were also many viruses that caused acute infections, such as Lassa fever and Rift Valley fever. However, although all these viruses had been detected in the semen, the researchers did not find much information on the transmission of these viruses by sexual contact.
“The presence of a virus in the semen does not necessarily mean that it can be transmitted through sexual intercourse,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, who was not part of the study, to NPR .
What does this discovery mean? As in many researches, it means that we still have a lot more to discover, although in this case the results can have a great impact. According to the researchers, the next step is to find out which viruses remain viable in the semen and for how long they are, among others. In addition, they said that it is also possible that the presence of viruses affect the fertility of man and his future generations.
The answers to these questions are important because they can reveal whether there is a risk that these viruses will spread through sexual contact. If so, the finding would mean a major breakthrough in the study of virus transmission and could help doctors control its spread.