Close skin contact is required for infection with monkeypox. It is not yet clear whether the virus can also be transmitted sexually. Now Italian experts have detected the virus in several sperm samples. "So sperm can also be a carrier of infection," says the leader of the research team.
Italian researchers are investigating the suspicion that monkeypox can be transmitted via sperm. His research team examined the sperm of 16 infected men and found the monkeypox virus in 14 cases, said Francesco Vaia, head of the Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, which specializes in infectious diseases.
This finding contradicts the assumption that the "virus occurs only rarely or randomly in semen," said Vaia. Although monkeypox is mainly transmitted through "direct contact" with the typical pustules, "but our study shows that sperm can also be a carrier of infection". However, the results of the new study have not yet been published or verified by independent experts.
Vaia's team is now also investigating whether the monkeypox virus is also present in vaginal secretions. It also tries to find out how long the virus is still present in the semen after the first symptoms appear. In one of the cases examined, the virus was still detected in the semen three weeks after the first symptoms appeared, while the blisters had already subsided, said the clinic director. He therefore recommends continuing to use condoms even after an infection has ended.
A less dangerous cousin of smallpox, which was eradicated about 40 years ago, monkeypox is commonly found in West and Central Africa. Since May, however, monkeypox has also been spreading to other countries, especially in Western Europe. Typical symptoms of the disease include high fever, swollen lymph nodes and pustules similar to chickenpox. The disease is transmitted through close body and skin contact. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3,400 cases have been reported in more than 50 countries, including Germany, since the beginning of the year. Most of those affected were therefore men who have sex with men.