Ebola Can Remain in Semen for Nine Months: Study

Ebola could persist in the semen of male survivors for up to nine months, far longer than previously thought, according to a new study.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, tracked 93 Sierra Leonean male survivors of Ebola in total, and semen samples were taken from the men at different points in their recovery. Traces of the deadly virus were found in the semen of 26 percent of men tested (11 out of 43 patients) between seven and nine months after their symptoms started and who had been treated for the virus.

After three months, it was found in 100 percent of tests (nine out of nine), and between four and six months, the virus was found to persist in the semen of 65 percent of men (26 out of 40). One man whose semen was tested 10 months after the onset of symptoms provided indeterminate results.

Previous outbreaks of Ebola showed the virus to remain in semen for up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms, the BBC reported.

In the U.K., Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey is currently critically ill after suffering complications related to Ebola, despite seeming to have made a full recovery after being diagnosed in December 2014.

The study authors concluded, "We do not yet have data on the extent to which positivity [on the test] is associated with virus infectivity." The authors also said they did not have "sufficient information to assess the risk of transmission through sexual intercourse, oral sex, or other sex acts from men with viable virus in their semen."

The World Health Organization recommended that Ebola survivors should either abstain all types of sex or use condoms until the male survivor's semen has tested negative for the virus twice.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa since an outbreak in March 2014, with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea the worst affected countries. Liberia was recently declared Ebola-free for the second time and Sierra Leone is on course to attain the same status as it has not recorded a new case in the past four weeks, AFP reported.