(HealthDay News) — Zika virus (ZIKV) RNA is frequently present in the semen of men with symptomatic ZIKV infection and can persist for over 6 months, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Paul S. Mead, MD, MPH, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined the frequency and duration of ZIKV shedding in the semen and urine of men with symptomatic ZIKV infection. For 6 months after illness onset, specimens were obtained twice a month and tested for ZIKV RNA and infectious ZIKV. A total of 1327 semen samples were obtained from 184 men, and 1038 urine samples were obtained from 183 men at 14 to 304 days after illness onset.

The researchers detected ZIKV RNA in the urine of 4% of the men and in the semen of 33% of the men, including in semen samples of 61% of the men who were tested within 30 days after illness onset. During the three months after illness onset, ZIKV RNA shedding in semen decreased considerably, but in one man, it continued for 281 days. Older age, less frequent ejaculation, and the presence of certain symptoms at the time of illness were independently associated with prolonged shedding.

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“ZIKV RNA was commonly present in the semen of men with symptomatic ZIKV infection and persisted in some men for more than 6 months,” the authors write.

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Mead PS, Duggal NK, Hook SA, et al. Zika Virus Shedding in Semen of Symptomatic Infected Men. N Engl J Med 2018; 378:1377-1385. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1711038

Feldmann H. Virus in Semen and the Risk of Sexual Transmission. N Engl J Med 2018; 378:1440-1441. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe1803212