Zika Virus Could be Transmitted Through Sex: Study

  • comments
  • print
  • email
Jan 27, 2016 04:30 AM EST

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JANUARY 26: Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. At least twelve cases in the United States have now been confirmed by the CDC. (Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images )

A new study has revealed that there's a possibility Zika virus could be transmitted through sexual contact. The evidence suggesting this is small, but experts said the public should be aware of the risks.

Experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on the Zika virus involving a 44-year-old man from Tahiti who underwent treatment for hemastospermia. The said patient first suffered from a mosquito-borne illness while in French Polynesia and exhibited symptoms like fever and joint pains.

After his recovery, he later found blood in his semen that prompted him to seek further treatment. Experts found that his semen samples contained high amounts of the Zika virus even as this no longer existed in his bloodstream.

Another instance that suggested the possibility contacting the virus through sex happened with insect specialist Brian D. Foy. In 2011, Foy and his team actually wrote about their findings, which was published in the National Institutes of Health Emerging Infections Disease.

Foy related that he fell ill during his expeditions in Colorado, where he was studying disease-carrying mosquitoes. His symptoms were typical of any illnesses related to mosquito-borne diseases as well, but there was blood in his semen.

On his return home, his wife contacted similar symptoms and their blood samples both tested positive for the Zika virus. None of their children nor relatives had the illness, leaving Foy and his team to conclude that the disease had been sexually transmitted.

"Patients 1 and 3 (Mr and Mrs Foy) reported having vaginal sexual intercourse in the days after patient 1 returned home but before the onset of his clinical illness," the researchers wrote in their paper, per Daily Mail.

The New York Times reported that CDC officials consider these two isolated cases as suggesting of "theoretical risks," which means that evidence is still insufficient to connect the link but the probability is there.

Barring further proof, experts reiterate that the virus can only be contacted from mosquito bites. "The route of transmission is best known through the mosquito, Aedes aegypti," said Dr. Maria Nehab via Fiocruz, a research facility in Rio de Janeiro.

"We still need a lot of study to conclude that sexual transmission can happen because little is known about the Zika virus," Dr. Nehab added. "At the moment, we have to care more about the known vector, which is the mosquito, as the virus transmission route."

Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical School suggested that more specialists should do further studies in Latin American countries where the outbreak is happening to find the links between sex and Zika.

Join the Conversation
Real Time Analytics