Background: Ebola virus (EBOV) RNA persistence in semen, reported sexual transmission, and sporadic clusters at the end of the 2013-2016 epidemic have prompted recommendations that male survivors refrain from unprotected sex unless their semen is confirmed to be EBOV free. However, there is no fully validated assay for EBOV detection in fluids other than blood.
Methods: The Cepheid Xpert Ebola assay for EBOV RNA detection was validated for whole semen and blood using samples obtained from uninfected donors and spiked with inactivated EBOV. The validation procedure incorporated standards from Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute and Good Clinical Laboratory Practices guidelines for evaluating molecular devices for use in infectious disease testing.
Results: The assay produced limits of detection of 1000 copies/mL in semen and 275 copies/mL in blood. Limits of detection for both semen and blood increased with longer intervals between collection and testing, with acceptable results obtained up to 72 hours after specimen collection.
Conclusions: The Cepheid Xpert Ebola assay is accurate and precise for detecting EBOV in whole semen. A validated assay for EBOV RNA detection in semen informs the care of male survivors of Ebola, as well as recommendations for public health.
Keywords: Cepheid Xpert.; Ebola; Semen; Validation.
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