Ebola persists in the semen of male survivors much longer than previously thought, a study shows. The report in the New England Journal of Medicine found two-thirds of men had Ebola in their semen up to six months after infection, and a quarter after nine. A separate study, in the same journal, reports Ebola being spread through sex with a survivor six months after their symptoms had started. Men who have survived Ebola are being encouraged to wear condoms.
Previous outbreaks of Ebola had shown the virus was present in semen for 82 days after the onset of symptoms. However, with huge numbers of Ebola-survivors now in West Africa, there is concern about how long the virus persists and if that poses a threat.
The analysis reported “infective Ebola virus” was in the man’s semen for at least 179 days after the onset of symptoms.
Meanwhile, a team in Sierra Leone tracked a 93 male survivors and found traces of Ebola virus in the semen of:
- 100% of men (nine out of nine tested) after three months
- 65% of men (26 out of 40 tested) between four and six months
- 26% of men (11 out of 43 tested) between seven and nine months
The virus was not detected in the only man tested 10 months after symptoms started.
The doctors report concluded: “We do not yet have data on the extent to which positivity [on the test] is associated with virus infectivity”.
The men will continue to be followed up and samples are being taken to determine if the virus is live.