Zika virus can live through semen of infected men for up to six months after symptoms appear, according to a new Italian study.
Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome recently conducted the study, published in the Eurosurveillance medical journal in August.According to Shanghai Daily, the study surrounds the case of a man in his early 40s. The man had returned to Italy from a two-week visit to Haiti on January 2016.
The publication reported that the patient developed high fever and rash for three days after coming back to Italy. Scientists said that the man also reported getting bit by mosquitoes in Haiti.
“Laboratory analyses performed at day 3 after symptom onset showed blood cell count and liver function tests within the normal range,” according to the study at Eurosurveillance.
As of now, men have been advised by health officials to use condoms or refrain from having sex for six months after being infected with the Zika virus. The warning is based on the assumption that the longest the virus could stay in semen is 93 days after infection.
However, the semen of the male sample tested positive for the virus 188 days after he was infected. According to Huffington Post, a second man’s semen also tested positive 181 days after infection. Both of them had visited Haiti, which is a well-known Zika transmission zone.
“A remarkable aspect of this case was the long duration of viral nucleic acid shedding in semen,” the scientists said in the article. “Data from this case suggest a prolonged potential for sexual transmission.”
But there is still good news in the results. The Italian scientists cautioned about the presence of the ZIKV RNA in semen. However, that would not necessarily mean the Zika virus is present in the body. According to scientists, the virus could just represent a “trace of past infection.”