Highest Concentrations Of Zika Virus Found In The Testicles, Health Officials Confirm Sexual Transmission

Health officials have confirmed that the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually as new research suggests that the highest concentrations of the virus are found in the male testes. As researchers worked with mice models in a bid to create a Zika virus vaccine and more treatment options, it was discovered that the Zika virus was found in higher concentrations in the male testicles than any other part of the body, including the spinal cord and brain.

The Detroit Newswire reports that health officials have confirmed that Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. The findings come as researchers working on Zika virus vaccines and treatments developed a mouse model for testing Zika therapies. The model found a possible reason for sexual transmission of the virus as the scientists noted the highest concentrations of the virus in the male testes. The testicles seem to harbor higher concentrations of the virus than even the spinal cord and brain.

Following the realization that the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually, the CDC began encouraging couples to take measures to prevent pregnancy if the male partner has traveled to a Zika-infected area.

“To prevent spreading Zika through sex, couples should use a condom every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy. To be effective, condoms must be used correctly (warning: this link contains sexually graphic images) from start to finish, every time you have sex. This includes vaginal, anal and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex. Not having sex is the only way to be sure that you do not get Zika virus from sex.”

While the CDC notes that the Zika virus remains in semen longer than blood, the health organization says there is still a lot to be learned about the virus and still a number of unknowns regarding Zika and sexual transmission.

  • We do not know how long the virus can stay in the semen of men who have had Zika.
  • We do not know if men infected with Zika who never develop symptoms can have the virus in their semen or spread Zika through sex.
  • We do not know if a woman can spread Zika to her sex partners.
  • We do not know if Zika can be spread through oral sex.

Therefore, the CDC is encouraging all couples to take precautions until further information is made available. The latest mouse model research seems to suggest that, as suspected, Zika can remain in a man’s semen for some time as the testes provide a safe harbor for the virus to survive. Though the exact amount of time that Zika can survive in the testes is unknown, doctors in the United Kingdom noted that a man’s semen tested positive for Zika virus 62 days after he first experienced signs of infection.

“Only semen was positive for ZIKV by rRT-PCR, at 27 and 62 days after onset of febrile illness.”

With all new research pointing towards the testicles and sexual transmission of the Zika virus as a real concern for couples, the CDC is wanting expectant mothers and women of child-bearing age to take all necessary precautions including condom use, abstinence, and proper mosquito precautions until the situation is fully addressed.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that global health officials expect Zika virus to spread to the United States in the coming months as temperatures begin to rise and mosquitoes begin plaguing regions across the U.S.

What do you think about the new research that suggests the highest concentrations of Zika virus are found in a man’s testicles? Did you know that Zika could survive in the testes for months after it has left a man’s blood stream?

[Image via Shutterstock]