Presence and persistence of zika virus RNA in semen, United Kingdom, 2016

Barry Atkinson, Fiona Thorburn, Christina Petridou, Daniel Bailey, Roger Hewson, Andrew Simpson, Timothy Brooks, Emma Aarons*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Zika virus RNA has been detected in semen collected several months after onset of symptoms of infection. Given the potential for sexual transmission of Zika virus and for serious fetal abnormalities resulting from infection during pregnancy, information regarding the persistence of Zika virus in semen is critical for advancing our understanding of potential risks. We tested serial semen samples from symptomatic male patients in the United Kingdom who had a diagnosis of imported Zika virus infection. Among the initial semen samples from 23 patients, Zika virus RNA was detected at high levels in 13 (56.5%) and was not detected in 9 (39.1%); detection was indeterminate in 1 sample (4.4%). After symptomatic infection, a substantial proportion of men have detectable Zika virus RNA at high copy numbers in semen during early convalescence, suggesting high risk for sexual transmission. Viral RNA clearance times are not consistent and can be prolonged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-615
Number of pages5
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the staff of the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory for processing routine clinical samples. We also thank the staff of the Diagnostic Support Group at Public Health England?Porton for assistance in processing semen samples. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the patients who volunteered semen samples and their clinicians. In addition, the authors acknowledge the work of Lisa Ottowell and Victoria Graham in performing in vitro isolation work. This work was funded by Public Health England.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All Rights Reserved.


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