Ebola Virus lingers in semen longer than expected

Ebola Virus
Andrew Renaut

New Approaches to Diagnosing the Ebola Virus

Over the past few decades, the Ebola virus has been the cause of many deaths to the human population, particularly the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa during 2013-2015. As a result, NIAID scientists have been undertaking new approaches to research that would allow them to discover different aspects of the Ebola and Marburg viruses that had not been previously observed in the past. These include finding better ways to diagnose the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), as well as use applied research and advanced technology to develop treatments and vaccines.

The Role of Unprotected Sexual Intercourse in Ebola Virus Transmission and Survival

The potential role that sexual intercourse could play in sparking new outbreaks of the Ebola virus in West Africa came to light through a study published in Lancet Global Health. In this study, 429 men were seen between the period of July 2015 and May 2016. These men were part of the Liberian Government Men’s Health Screening Program, known to be the world’s first national semen testing program for the virus. Despite the fact that Liberia had been declared free of Ebola at the time, 38 men tested positive during the study period. Furthermore, of the women that died from the disease, genetic analysis had shown that the infections of men and women who had unprotected sexual contact closely matched together.

Prior to this outbreak, many scientists believed that the Ebola virus could survive in certain areas within the body that the immune system may otherwise have difficulty reaching (i.e. eyes and testes). This report, according to Moses J. Soka, M.D., Coordinator, Ebola Virus Disease Survivor Clinical Care at the Liberian Ministry of Health and first director of the MSPH program, sheds light on new ways of understanding how long traces of the virus can persist within the body. It also highlights the individual differences in relation to the length of time that Ebola fragments can survive in the semen.