Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease? This question is currently on the minds of many people.
While experts have no conclusive report on the same, a recent study by The Lancet found that monkeypox virus can persist in semen for weeks after recovery.
Having assessed viral shedding in semen samples collected 5–19 days after symptom onset in a patient, Francesca Colavita, a researcher from the Laboratory of Virology, National Institute for Infectious Diseases ‘Lazzaro Spallanzani’ (IRCCS), Italy, has said, “Our findings support that prolonged shedding of monkeypox virus DNA can occur in the semen of infected patients for weeks after symptoms onset.”
The patient was diagnosed at Italy’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases and had a travel history to Austria during the first two weeks of May. The man self identifies himself as someone who has sex with men and sex workers. He also self-reported unsafe sexual intercourse with several male partners during his travels.
“The case discussed herein supports that transmission of monkeypox virus during sexual activity might be a viable and recognized route, especially in the current 2022 outbreak of disease,” Colavita said, adding that the “prolonged viral DNA shedding, even at low viral copies, might hint at a possible genital reservoir”.
However, “since the patient was an HIV-infected, viro-immunological responder, we cannot entirely exclude the possibility of an effect of HIV-associated chronic immune dysregulation on prolonged monkeypox virus shedding in semen,” she added.
Health authorities have maintained that the virus is not a sexually transmitted disease and anyone can contract the disease by close contact.