The New England journal of medicine 378(15) 1377-1385 doi 10.1056/NEJMoa1711038
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging mosquito-borne flavivirus that has been linked to adverse birth outcomes. Previous reports have shown that person-to-person transmission can occur by means of sexual contact.
We conducted a prospective study involving men with symptomatic ZIKV infection to determine the frequency and duration of ZIKV shedding in semen and urine and to identify risk factors for prolonged shedding in these fluids. Specimens were obtained twice per month for 6 months after illness onset and were tested by real-time reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay for ZIKV RNA and by Vero cell culture and plaque assay for infectious ZIKV.
A total of 1327 semen samples from 184 men and 1038 urine samples from 183 men were obtained 14 to 304 days after illness onset. ZIKV RNA was detected in the urine of 7 men (4%) and in the semen of 60 (33%), including in semen samples from 22 of 36 men (61%) who were tested within 30 days after illness onset. ZIKV RNA shedding in semen decreased substantially during the 3 months after illness onset but continued for 281 days in 1 man (1%). Factors that were independently associated with prolonged RNA shedding included older age, less frequent ejaculation, and the presence of certain symptoms at the time of initial illness. Infectious ZIKV was isolated from 3 of 78 semen samples with detectable ZIKV RNA, all obtained within 30 days after illness onset and all with at least 7.0 log ZIKV RNA copies per milliliter of semen.
ZIKV RNA was commonly present in the semen of men with symptomatic ZIKV infection and persisted in some men for more than 6 months. In contrast, shedding of infectious ZIKV appeared to be much less common and was limited to the first few weeks after illness onset. (Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.).