Absence of SARS-CoV-2 in semen of a COVID-19 patient cohort

Andrology. 2020 Jun 29;10.1111/andr.12848. doi: 10.1111/andr.12848. Online ahead of print.


Background: Since SARS-CoV-2 infection was first identified in December 2019, the novel coronavirus-induced pneumonia COVID-19 spread rapidly and triggered a global pandemic. Recent bioinformatics evidence suggested that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2-the main cell entry target of SARS-CoV-2-was predominantly enriched in spermatogonia, Leydig and Sertoli cells, which suggests the potential vulnerability of the male reproductive system to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Objectives: To identify SARS-CoV-2 RNA in seminal plasma and to determine semen characteristics from male patients in the acute and recovery phases of infection.

Methods: From February 26 to April 2, 2020, 23 male patients with COVID-19 were recruited. The clinical characteristics, laboratory findings and chest computed tomography scans of all patients were recorded in detail. We also investigated semen characteristics and the viral RNA load in semen from these patients in the acute and recovery phases of SARS-CoV-2 infection using approved methods.

Results: The age range of the 23 patients was 20-62 years. All patients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in semen specimens. Among them, the virus had been cleared in 11 patients, as they tested negative. The remaining 12 patients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in semen samples, but were positive in sputum and fecal specimens. The median interval from diagnosis to providing semen samples was 32 days, when total sperm counts, total motile sperm counts, and sperm morphology of the patients were within normal ranges.

Discussion and conclusion: In this cohort of patients with a recent infection or recovering from COVID-19, there was no SARS-CoV-2 RNA detected in semen samples, which indicates the unlikely possibility of sexual transmission through semen at about 1 month after first detection.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; semen.