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Preliminary study finds that Ebola virus fragments can persist in the semen of some survivors for at least nine months

Oct 16, 2015


Preliminary results of a study into persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids show that some men still produce semen samples that test positive for Ebola virus nine months after onset of symptoms.
 
The report, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, provides the first results of a long-term study being jointly conducted by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone Ministry of Defense, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
“Sierra Leone is committed to getting to zero cases and to taking care of our survivors, and part of that effort includes understanding how survivors may be affected after their initial recovery,” said Amara Jambai, M.D., M.Sc., Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation. “Survivors are to be commended for contributing to the studies that help us understand how long the virus may persist in semen.”
 
The first phase of this study has focused on testing for Ebola virus in semen because of past research showing persistence in that body fluid.  Better understanding of viral persistence in semen is important for supporting survivors to recover and to move forward with their lives.
 
“These results come at a critically important time, reminding us that while Ebola case numbers continue to plummet, Ebola survivors and their families continue to struggle with the effects of the disease.  This study provides further evidence that survivors need continued, substantial support for the next 6 to 12 months to meet these challenges and to ensure their partners  are not exposed to potential virus, ” said Bruce Aylward, WHO Director-General’s Special Representative on the Ebola Response.