Background: Although biological markers of women's exposure to semen from vaginal intercourse have been developed as surrogates for risk of infection or probability of pregnancy, data on their persistence time and clearance are limited.
Study design: During 2006-2008, 52 couples were enrolled for three 14-day cycles of abstinence from vaginal sex during which women were exposed in the clinic to a specific quantity (10, 100 or 1000 μL) of their partner's semen. Vaginal swabs were collected before and at 1, 6, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 144 h after exposure for testing for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Yc DNA).
Results: Immediately after exposure to 1000 μL of semen, the predicted sensitivity of being PSA positive was 0.96; this decreased to 0.65, 0.44, 0.21 and 0.07 at 6, 12, 24 and 48 h, respectively. Corresponding predicted sensitivity of being Yc DNA positive was 0.72 immediately postexposure; this increased to 0.76 at 1 h postexposure and then decreased to 0.60 (at 6 h), 0.63 (at 12 h), 0.49 (at 24 h), 0.21 (at 48 h), 0.17 (at 72 h) and 0.12 (at 144 h).
Conclusions: Overall findings suggest that PSA may be more consistent as a marker of very recent exposure and that Yc DNA is more likely to be detected in the vagina after 12 h postexposure compared to PSA.
Keywords: Clearance; Prostate-specific antigen; Semen biomarkers; Y-chromosome DNA.