(HealthDay News) — Twenty-seven viruses can be found in human semen, according to a research letter published online in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Noting that Zika virus RNA is frequently detected in the semen of men after infection, Alex P. Salam, PhD, and Peter W. Horby, MBBS, PhD, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, conducted a systematic review to examine the breadth of viruses in semen.

The researchers found that 27 viruses, which result in viremia, have been identified in human semen. Data on sexual transmission are lacking for many of these. Many of the 27 viruses can cause chronic or latent infection (such as HIV virus and cytomegalovirus), and some, including Lassa fever, Rift valley fever, and chikungunya viruses, cause acute infection. Zika and Ebola are the only viruses causing acute infection that have been systematically screened for in semen.

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“The presence of viruses in semen is probably more widespread than currently appreciated, and the absence of virus in genital secretions should not be assumed for traditionally non-sexually transmitted viruses,” the authors write. “The investigation of virus detection and persistence in semen across a range of viruses is useful for clinical and public health reasons, in particular for viruses that lead to high mortality or morbidity rates or to epidemics.”

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  1. Salam AP, Horby PW. The breadth of viruses in human semen. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 Nov. doi: 10.3201/eid2311.171049