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Chinese study not sufficient to conclude COVID-19 is sexually transmitted- Experts

Two Ibadan-based medical scientists say there is no sufficient evidence to conclusively say that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be sexually transmitted.

The virologists spoke on Monday against the backdrop of recent reports in some international news media that people who recently recovered from COVID-19 should avoid sexual intercourse and kissing for at least 30 days.

Earlier, a Chinese preliminary study which was conducted on a small number of recovering COVID-19 patients.

The Chinese researchers, who conducted the study on the infected men, had found that COVID-19 was present in their semen.

A Consultant Virologist, Dr Adeola Fowotade, however, said that COVID-19 virus could not be passed on through vaginal or anal intercourse based on available evidence.

The virologist said that what was found in the semen samples were mainly viral components and were unlikely to cause infection sexually.

“While COVID-19 virus may be present in the semen of patients, both in acute disease as well as in convalescent patients, according to these published reports, however, what was found was mainly viral components.

“Hence, there is no justifiable evidence yet for transmitting the new coronavirus infection sexually, so the risk here, even if the study is verified at a larger scale, is very limited at least for now,” she said.

Fowotade, however, cautioned recovering COVID-19 patients against oral sex and kissing.

According to the virologist, who works at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, there is significant risk of transmitting the virus through kissing and oral sex.

“COVID-19 virus is passed on through contact with droplets from the nose and mouth, including the saliva of an infected person, which can happen through close contact with others.

“This means there is a significant risk of passing on COVID-19 through kissing and physical touching if one person has the virus.

“There is also evidence that the virus is shed in stool or faeces, so oral sex with licking around the anal areas may also be a way the virus is passed on,” she said.

Dr Olubusuyi Adewumi, another virologist and Senior Lecturer at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, said that the findings of the Chinese study should be viewed with caution until larger studies were conducted.

According to Adewumi, bigger studies are needed on the constantly mutating virus that causes COVID-19 in order to determine whether the virus detects if semen is capable of causing infection.

“We are dealing with a novel and evolving virus. It was discovered few weeks ago that recoverers shed the virus in their stools for up to five weeks.

“Just last week its detection in semen of recoverers was reported.

“However, I will advise that we take the last find with caution until it is confirmed by more works,” he added. (NAN)

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